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

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!

Advertisements

6 responses

  1. Hope you find somewhere nice to move to and that we will continue to see your lovely pictures here in the future.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm

  2. snowbirdpress

    So many thanks I can’t count them for sharing such a bounty from your walks.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm

  3. I’m sorry for this situation. 😦
    I know I can’t do something but at least I’m sorry for this.

    June 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm

  4. I shall miss your well directed rants (and of course the excellent photographs).

    June 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm

  5. We will look forward to whatever you can post, whenever you can do it.

    June 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm

  6. Thanks for a great blog that I truly enjoyed each week Jerry. I hope all goes as planned for you and that you’ll be back with us soon. Take care.

    June 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm