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

My Week…Severe drought

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

Here you will find my thoughts about the wildlife that share this area, and maybe my thoughts on a news item I have read that pertains to nature or the environment. You can click on any of the photos to get a larger view of them.

This post covers the week from June 3 to June 9, 2012

Sunday

So much for our weekend of rain, I woke up to bright blue skies without a cloud in sight. That may sound funny, since most people would prefer a day like today, but I’m too darn practical, we need more rain. I guess that comes from all my relatives on my mother’s side of the family being farmers. It’s getting warmer as well, no winter parka today. And, it will be better for photography, so time for breakfast, and to see how many laps I can get in today.

Well, I did three laps today, got some good shots, even more not so good shots, and even a few shots so bad that they left me scratching my head wondering what went wrong. (Note to self, quit scratching your head, you don’t have that much hair left up there)

Many of the good shots went into another post, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,”

I was about to make note in one of these entries that all the geese seemed to have left the area, but today, somehow or another, over 100 geese managed to sneak into the center pond between my first and second laps. There were geese all around the pond, or in it.

Canada geese

Those goslings sure do grow quickly! Even Father and Mother goose and family were there.

Canada geese and goslings

It’s getting so the only way that I can tell them from the rest is that they continue to stay at the edges of the flock, somewhat by themselves, and by Father Goose’s behavior. He’s calmed down, a little, but he still acts as if he could go off on either another goose, or a photographer that gets to close, at any time, so I keep my distance.

It was just over two weeks ago that the geese were still at war with each other, and now, just as I predicted, they are all back to being one big happy family moving together as a flock, crapping all over the neighborhood. 😉 At least that let me know that they came from the south today, which sort of explains how that many geese managed to escape my notice while they were on the move. I loved seeing them all again.

Since many of my good bird photos are in the other post, that gives me room here for some more artistic types of shots.

Cedar waxwing hidden in the leaves

Maple seeds, a study of colors and light

Shadows and sparkles

Dragonfly with sparkly wings

Flowers in the sunlight

I even managed a couple of bad action shots of the day!

Female red-winged blackbird in flight

Great blue heron in flight

I’m really disappointed in the series of shots I took of the heron. It croaked to alert me of its coming, the light seemed right, and the heron was in a slow, downward glide as if it were going to land in the long back pond. It didn’t, but it did nearly fly into a tree.

Great blue heron avoiding an attacking tree

Those shots should have been much better than they are, I don’t know what went wrong.

I am learning something though, blue jays don’t photograph well in flight against a bright blue sky almost the same color that the blue jays are. Even when I get a “good” shot, the blue jays are “hidden” in the blue of the sky. I deleted the photos, I should have saved one as an example of what I mean, but the blue and white feathers of the blue jays blends in so well with the sky, it’s nature’s camouflage at work.

The male orioles were flying all around here today, but the only photos I ended up with were of an orange streak between green leaves. Better luck tomorrow, I hope. I hardly hear them singing at all anymore, must be they have all mated already.

That’s about all for today, being in the summer pattern, there aren’t many day to day, or even week to week changes, just nature being nature. On to Monday.

Monday

I slept in late, and today is my short day, so I had better get moving. The weather, bright blue skies and pleasant temperatures, so it’s off I go.

OK, the day has come that I knew would happen eventually, I don’t have a lot to say about my walk today. DId I chase birds, of course I did.

American robins taking a bath

American robins taking a bath

Or, maybe I should say that they were showering, as one would splash for a while, then the other one would, with each of them getting a shower while the other one splashed.

Did I chase the squirrels around, yes.

Fox squirrel

The Alabama Leaning Squirrel

I even got my bad action shots of the day.

Red-winged blackbirds in flight

Red-winged blackbird in flight

And, I snapped a few of the flowers.

Snapdragon

But for the most part, I was in my own little world, alternately thinking about an exit strategy as far as getting out of this apartment complex, and missing the way that it used to be around here. For example, the snapdragon is a plant that has re-seeded itself each year from back in time when they put in extensive plantings of annuals around the entrance ways here. Last year we got a few straggly petunias that looked like they had come from the picked over bargain table after every one else had picked the good plants. This year, nothing, just patches of plain dirt, they didn’t even mulch them over to make them look attractive.

You know, on second thought, something did pop into my head today, maybe the reason that the hawks seem to hunt from a higher altitude in the summer. Whenever I see a hawk at or just above treetop level, they are being attacked by flocks of smaller songbirds this time of year, as the songbirds attempt to protect their young from the hawks. If I were a hawk, I would try to avoid such attacks for the most part, so I guess that I would soar at a higher altitude to do so.

That’s it for today, on to Tuesday.

Tuesday

I spoke too soon about the flowers here, they were planting annuals yesterday as I left for work. More sickly looking petunias. This year, they went all out and bought one flat each of two colors of petunia, rather than just one color like last year. What a joke, but the jokes on me, I’m paying for it. 🙂

The weather is much the same as yesterday, but with a lot more clouds. It was a fabulous night last night, I was tempted to do a lap when I got home from work. Clear skies, a bright full moon, and pleasantly cool temperatures, but, I had things to do. I do love it when we have weather such as this, highs in the mid-seventies, and lows around fifty degrees. If only we could get some rain. The little rain and mist that we received last Thursday and Friday wasn’t nearly enough, the creeks and ponds are still very low for this time of year.

It was cool when I started out, I even considered coming back in for another layer of clothes, but I knew it would warm up as I went along.

I don’t know if it’s the weather, I think it is, but for some reason, the birds were going nuts today. They were everywhere, acting as if it were early spring rather than early summer. A few examples.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Male northern cardinal

Boat-tail grackle

Northern flicker

They were crowding each other to get into the frame to have their picture taken, but I messed up.

Very bad shot of a flicker and catbird

But since the catbird obviously wanted its photo taken, I obliged.

Grey catbird

Even the red-tailed hawk made an appearance to reinforce what I wrote about them flying at a higher altitude in the summer.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

And, speaking of higher altitudes, this heron flew over at a much higher altitude than is normal for them this time of year.

Great blue heron in the distance

The heron seemed to be looking over all the ponds in the area at one time to decide which one to go to, but it didn’t choose any of them here today.

It was this kind of day.

Clouds in turmoil

Clouds and blue skies

And that resulting in me shooting more things than I normally do.

Pink flower that grows in the stream

Yellow thistle?

Sumac getting ready to flower

Sumac getting ready to flower

grass flowering

Yellow wildflower and bee

And, I shot my share of bad action shots of the day, today, they are really bad!

Baltimore oriole in flight

Baltimore oriole in flight

I would have thought that 1/1000 of a second would have been fast enough to freeze almost any bird but a hummingbird in flight, but I was wrong. Since I wasn’t having much luck with the smaller songbirds, I decided to shoot something larger to see if I could get it.

On the approach

At least that worked. 😉 You can even see the plane had its landing lights on.

That’s about it for today, tomorrow is supposed to be a carbon copy of today, I hope so! If the birds are that active, I would like to get some better photos, at least closer photos of the orioles and grosbeaks. On to Wednesday.

Wednesday

There are a few things I have been forgetting to put in here. One is that of my recent clothing purchases, I bought a bright, blood-red T-shirt. Why am I mentioning that? The critters don’t seem to like it very much. I don’t think that for my type of nature photography that you need to wear camouflaged clothes to get close to wildlife, but some colors do drive wildlife away, and bright red is one of them.

Back in the days when I still hunted with a gun, there were times when small tweety birds like chickadees would land right next to me, one or twice they landed on my gun barrel as I sat under a tree, all while I was wearing a bright hunter orange coat. I am fairly sure that if I were to wear that red T-shirt and sit perfectly still for a long period of time, the birds would get used to it and come closer, but while I am moving, they want no part of it. It is the combination of color, movement, and sounds that frighten wildlife away, not just any one of those things.

Thursday

I went to the dentist in the morning, $200 to be berated for not having enough money to maintain my new dentist’s lifestyle. I miss my former dentist, who, as far as his patients are concerned, retired way too young. The new guy that he sold his practice to is not cut from the same cloth!

My former dentist was Dr. Vanderveen, but no one ever called him that. To his patients, he is Reggie. Early on when I first started going to him, he and I had a conversation about our dream cars, his was an Audi TT. But, he couldn’t afford one of those, so he was saving to buy a Mazda Miata. Think of that for a second, an established dentist at the top of his field saving to buy one of the most reasonably priced sports cars on the market. What a great human being Reggie is!

He went into dentistry to serve his patients, not to milk them for every dollar that he could, he will be missed by all of us who depended on his willingness to sacrifice his own earning potential to see that every one had access to quality dental care. This world could use a few more health care professionals like Dr. Reggie Vanderveen, this world could use a few more Reggie Vanderveens period!

My new dentist may be very skilled, but he’s in it for the money and prestige as much or more than he is for his patient’s health and well-being. He wasn’t happy with Reggie’s modest office, so he’s moved the practice to a fancy new building which is very impressive, but the rent must be equally impressive from the way what he charges has gone up. Enough of that.

After my dental appointment, I did go for a walk, I may post some of the photos I took, I’ll think about that while I am walking today, for it is Friday.

Friday

It is getting a little warmer each day this week, we’re still getting cool nights though. Last night as I came home from work, the mist was coming off from the ponds because the air had cooled off so much more than the water in the ponds. By the weekend, it is forecast that we’ll have temps near 90 degrees again, I will be dying!

We need rain! Badly! The ponds and creeks are lower than I have ever seen them.

I’m back from my walk, it felt good to step out into the warm sun at first. Last night when I got home from work, I opened the windows rather than running the AC, and it was chilly this morning when I shut the windows to hold the coolness in. So the sun did feel good for a while, but it is getting warm, hot in fact. Neither the creek in front of the complex, or the one that is behind my apartment have any flow to them at all, they are drying up. Even the main creek that flows through here is down to just a trickle, and the ponds are shrinking more each day we go without rain.

The heat is changing the way the birds are behaving, earlier this week when it was cool, there were male birds singing everywhere, and I got a few good photos as you have seen. With the heat returning, there were very few birds singing today, and what few photos of birds that I did attempt didn’t come out well enough to post here.

When the males aren’t singing, it’s hard to spot them, especially with the breeze blowing today, the one good thing about the weather today which made the heat bearable.

Since I wasn’t getting any birds to cooperate, I shot flower pictures instead. Most of these came from the trucking company behind the apartment complex. That reminds me, I stopped there one morning and asked permission to access their property to photograph the flowers, and I haven’t heard back from them, so I guess the answer is no. Too bad, they have gorgeous flowers growing where most places would have plain old boring grass. I shot these through, over, and around their fence.

Fleabane?

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

Assorted flowers from Great Lakes Heavy Haul’s yard

I sure would like to get permission to enter their property and do a proper job of photographing just how beautiful that their property is! Not only is it beautiful, it serves as home for dozens of birds, a few bunnies, and of course butterflies as well.

Since I was in the mood for flowers, here’s a couple more that can be found nearly everywhere.

Sumac beginning to flower

Sumac beginning to flower

Red clover

Viburnum

I also spent some time talking with another of the tenants here, comparing notes on how badly this place has gone downhill of late. I won’t bore you with the details. But, it turns out that he’s a caver, I was going to use the term “spelunker”, but I see that has gone out of favor these days.

I’ve always been interested in that, but I have never actually done any caving, I didn’t think that there were many caves here in Michigan. We also spoke a good deal about the wildlife around here, so our conversation went on for some time, leaving less time to work on this. Beside, I need to do something about the middle days of the week, which I haven’t gotten to yet, so it’s on to Saturday.

Saturday

What a week! As if I didn’t have too much going on already, my email account has been hacked and is sending spam to the few people on my contact list. Does any one even try to earn an honest living these days, or is every one out for the quick buck by cheating any one they can?

Since it is going to get very hot today, I am going to get going early, and hope to beat the heat. While I’m out, I’ll run a full scan of my computer, but I think my email account was hacked through Yahoo messenger. One day this week it went crazy, even though I don’t use it any longer. I should just delete it to be safe.

I did two laps today, and I’m paying the price. It was hot, but I think that it was too much sun that has done me in. That, and I let myself get dehydrated, which is always a bad thing. It is dry, very dry, I checked online before attempting this, and the relative humidity is about as low as it ever gets around here, 27% with a dew point of 47 degrees. At least it should cool off quickly when the sun goes down, and it’s headed down right now.

It’s rare for us to get that dry of air here in Michigan, since we are surrounded by the waters of lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior. I should have realized what was going on because I wasn’t sweating, well, I was, but it was evaporating so fast in the dry air that it didn’t seem like I was sweating. I thought that I drank enough water, I thought wrong.

Also, because I have psoriasis, I took my shirt off for the second lap to get some sunshine on my skin. I did, too much, I got quite burned. I know, sunlight is bad for us and so is a sunburn, but not so much for myself. If I were going to a doctor for my psoriasis, he would be “prescribing” time in a UV booth for me, which is nothing more than a super expensive tanning booth.

I’ve been down that road, paying doctor’s prices for a tanning booth, and the yo-yo’s in charge of my treatments zapped me to the point where I became allergic to sunlight for a while, and I would break out in hives when exposed to real sunlight, not a good thing. I don’t know all that they did to me, but I do know that a day out in the sun when it is hot really affects me in a bad way.

I wanted to stay awake this afternoon and go to bed early, for a very early start tomorrow, but I more or less passed out in my chair for quite some time. I had some really weird dreams as well, which is rare for me, and tells me I need to be more careful until this heatwave and drought break early next week.

As for my actual walk, there wasn’t much going on. The birds were feeling the heat as much as I was it seemed, as except for parents feeding their young, the birds were sticking to the shaded areas and not singing at all. Even the goldfinches were subdued today, which is rare for them.

On top of that, there was a hot, dry wind out of the south that made taking shots of flowers almost impossible today.  I did manage a few good ones of both birds and flowers though.

Blue jay

American robin

Fuzzy newly hatch Canada goose gosling

Older Canada goose goslings that are almost as large as their parents

And here’s a cute little series I shot as a family of geese entered the water and took up their normal positions.

Canada goose conga line forming

Canada goose conga line forming

Canada goose conga line forming

Canada goose conga line forming

Canada goose conga line forming

Canada goose conga line formed and ready to go

For a while there, I didn’t think that there would be an end to the line, and that the gosling would keep on coming forever! 🙂 There were well over 100 geese in the center pond again today, they must use that pond as their weekend get-away place, for I seldom see them around during the week.

The only other thing of note from today was talking to a couple that lives here for quite some time this afternoon. I first saw the couple as she was taking photographs of the young barn swallows in a nest under the car port where the couple’s car was parked. They stopped on their way out to talk about the wildlife around here. They didn’t know much about the individual species, but that doesn’t stop them from appreciating how varied and how numerous the wildlife is.

It’s getting so that some one stops me nearly everyday now that the weather is nice to chat about the wildlife, it’s a darned shame the current management doesn’t seem to care at all about it. And I had better leave it at that for now.

I am going to call this post done, even though it really isn’t. I am sorry about the low quality of this one, but I am too worn out to go back and do it right. I hope to do much better again next week, while I still have Internet access. Thanks for stopping by!

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15 responses

  1. I enjoyed the leaning squirrel most of all.

    June 10, 2012 at 7:46 am

    • Thank you, he’s a cutie, isn’t he?

      June 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm

  2. When I mentioned that we were having a drought on my blog it started raining and hasn’t stopped since. Yesterday was our first rain free day in two weeks, I think. Maybe it will work the same way for you. I like the leaning squirrel too-those squirrels are too funny. I hope you’re feeling better now. Take it easy.

    June 10, 2012 at 8:18 am

    • Thank you! We’ve been on the edge of a drought all spring, but it is getting really bad now. Feast or famine I suppose.
      The temperatures wouldn’t bother me as much if it got warm and stayed warm so that my body could adjust. After our last mini-heatwave over Memorial Day weekend, it turned cold, cold enough so that I wore a winter parka and we came close to setting a number of record lows. Now, it’s back to the heat again.

      June 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm

  3. plantsamazeme

    I’m not sure how you keep it interesting each week, but you did it again. You are great at capturing the birds doing the things they do. Got a little stalker in you.

    I’m wondering what that dark pink flower, “Pink flower that grows in the stream” might be? Boy do I have a dentist story I could share but I won’t. And I too have psoriasis, since age 16, but don’t take off my shirt to get the sun. 🙂 It’s not fair.

    Our Partridge Berry flower (Mitchella repens) noticed the drought. It flowered
    pathetically this year. I’m pretty sure it needed more rain. The vegetable garden is good but that gets watered with the sprinklers.

    Thanks for sharing your week, Chris

    June 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

    • Thank you Chris.

      I did some further checking, and the small pink flower is from the flowering rush/ Butomus Umbellatus, and is considered to be an invasive species. Darn! They are a beautiful flower, I wonder how they go established in the little creek here? From the Wikipedia, “is native to Eurasia and grows on the margins of still and slowly moving water down to a depth of about 3 m. It has pink flowers. Introduced into North America as an ornamental plant it has now become a serious invasive weed in the Great Lakes area.”

      I’ve had psoriasis for most of my life, I look at it this way. There are a lot of people who have far worse ailments than dry flaky skin, so I consider myself lucky and healthy.
      All the flowers seem to be acting strange this year. I’ll wait for them to fully open, and by the time that they do, they are already starting to wilt and/or turn brown.

      I’ll bet that you’ve been posting some good stuff that I haven’t been notified about yet, I should wander over to your blog and see.

      June 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm

      • plantsamazeme

        Yup Flowering Rush, that’s it. I knew I had seen it before. Last year at Grand River Park, lots of them and they were beautiful, but invasive. Thanks for figuring that one out for me.

        I have posted lately, and blogger doesn’t send a notice, I’ve never been happy with blogger or blogspot, but I’m not brave enough to make the switch. I just might come over to wordpress.

        Chris 🙂

        June 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      • I tried a couple of other blogging platforms out before I found WordPress, I didn’t care for any of the either. If I remember correctly, WordPress has a feature to allow you to import your Blogger blog into WordPress without losing anything. I think that WordPress could be made a little more user friendly as far as setting things up, but overall, I am very happy with it.

        June 11, 2012 at 9:34 am

  4. I nice eclectic collection of images. It’s always fun to see them all and read you interesting narratives. 🙂

    June 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    • Thanks Bob. Good luck with your book! (unabashed plug for the book that Bob Zeller has begun working on.)

      June 10, 2012 at 6:25 pm

  5. Northern Narratives

    I hope you get some rain soon. As always I love your photos and I look forward to reading your weekly report 🙂

    June 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm

  6. The squirrel was good, but I especially liked the viburnum and the blue jay.

    June 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    • Thank you, I try to shoot a little of everything, every one has their own favorites.

      June 11, 2012 at 9:25 am

  7. Love the conga line!

    We finally got some rain here to the south of you today. It’s been a very dry spring here, too.

    Interesting about your red shirt not being popular. This time of year birds seem more on edge because of nesting and all of the stresses that brings on.

    I like the cloud pictures from Tuesday- I find myself taking more and more pictures of the sky.

    June 11, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    • Thank you! The conga line was one of the few times that I wish I had shot a video rather than stills. The way the geese always get into a line when they move.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:37 am