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

Archive for June, 2012

Trying to fight the spammers

Just a quick note here, I have made some of my earlier posts private for a while in an attempt to fight off the spammers that are missed by Akismet. There are two or three of my earlier posts that attract almost all of the spam I get here, so those will not be available for a few days. I assume that the spammers have those posts bookmarked, or what ever they do to keep coming back to the same place all the time.

I don’t normally get that much spam here, but for the last week, I have been deluged with it. After a few days with no spam, I will make those posts public again. But, if you were to look for them now, you won’t be able to find them, sorry.

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The new bantam-weight champion of the world?

On Sunday, as I was approaching the pond that I call the back pond, I heard a commotion start among the birds there. It started with one of the kingfishers chattering away, but there’s nothing unusual about that, they chatter most of the time. I can’t even put my finger on it, but I knew something was going on, especially when I saw this approaching me as I looked through the openings between the trees.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

If you look closely, you can see that the hawk has something in its talons, with some grass trailing behind. The hawk was literally right on top of me when I pulled up to shoot before it disappeared over the next clump of trees.

I can’t say for sure, as I didn’t see what had transpired as I was approaching the pond, but I think that the hawk had just raided the nest of a pair of red-winged blackbirds and hadn’t been too fussy about grabbing some of the nest along with a young bird. What I do know is that there was one ticked off red-winged blackbird attacking every other bird near the pond.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

I was a little surprised to see the gulls there, I see them flying over everyday, but they seldom drop down into any of the ponds here. The red-winged blackbird was doing all that he could to let the gulls know that they were not welcome.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

I wouldn’t put it past a gull to raid another bird’s nest, they will eat about anything that doesn’t eat them first, so I wasn’t too surprised that the blackbird was attacking the gull. They made a couple of loops around the pond, as you will see, in a couple of the shots, you can even see the gull looking around trying to see where the blackbird was.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

Red-winged blackbird attacking a herring gull

By then, the gull had figured out that the blackbird wasn’t going to give up, so the gull pulled up and took off for safer places to look for a meal. I thought that the show was over, the blackbird was heading towards shore, I assumed that he was going to land. I was wrong, the blackbird turned its anger loose on one of the spotted sandpipers along the shore.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a spotted sandpiper

I could be wrong, but I don’t think that sandpipers raid the nest of other birds, but that didn’t stop the blackbird from attacking!

Red-winged blackbird attacking a spotted sandpiper

The poor little sandpiper was no match in flight for the blackbird, but I learned that they have a good method of escaping an attacker, they dive under water! I missed the dive though, as I had no idea that it was what the sandpiper was going to do to escape from the blackbird.

Apparently, spotted sandpipers can swim underwater quite well, as that one surfaced thirty to forty feet from where it had entered the water. By the time I saw where it had come up and got the camera on it, the sandpiper was out of camera range.

Not the red-winged blackbird though.

Red-winged blackbird in flight

With no other birds left in his corner of the pond, he landed on one of the cattails, and began to announce his supremacy.

Red-winged blackbird announcing “Yeah, I’m bad”

The way that the blackbird was carrying on, you’d have thought that he had just been crowned as the bantam-weight champion of the world or something. But, if I’m right in my assumption that he lost one of his young to the hawk, then maybe he shouldn’t have been crowing quite so much. In his defense though, he was out-numbered, there were three herring gulls and the red-tailed hawk, the blackbird may have been busy chasing off a gull while the hawk made its attack on the nest.

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


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!


“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,”

No, not the story of a crazed silent film star, but a few close-ups of birds that I shot today. They’re self-explanatory other than which species they are, which will appear in the captions to the photos.

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

Canada goose gosling

Canada goose gosling

And finally…

Bullfrog

Hey wait, that’s no bird! No, but it’s the closest thing to a photo of Joe Gillis (William Holden) that I had. For those of you wondering what I’m talking about, check out the old movie “Sunset Boulevard”.

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


My Week…The end is in sight

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

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

This post covers the week from May 27 to June 2, 2012

Sunday

On Sunday I went to Muskegon, first to the wastewater treatment facility, then to Muskegon State Park for what turned out to be a pretty good day of drive-by birding. That’s covered in a separate post which you can read here.

Monday

The heat continues, so I am going to try to make it out there before the heat becomes too much for me.

I did two laps and I was done before 1 PM, and it was already too hot for me before I started the second lap.

It struck me today that in many ways, very high temperatures are just as tough on the wildlife as the extreme cold of winter. The few creatures stirring today were those who had young mouths to feed. The rest of the critters were in the coolest spots they could find, trying to keep from melting. Yes, I did shoot a picture of a goose panting in the heat, but I decided that you’ve seen that already, no need to post another.

In fact, I shot less than 60 photos today, despite the hazy sunshine that could have produced some good photos, and did in fact. Here’s a sampler.

Flowering bush

Snapdragon

Watercress in bloom

Day lily

I know I have posted a few of the yellow day lilies before, I threw that one in for a reason. I guess that I’m a slow learner, as it has taken me quite some time to learn that the Nikon 70-300 mm lens I have does not perform well when zoomed all the way to 300 mm. The resolution from that lens gets really bad at 300 mm, so, I am taking more shots at the lower end of its range, then cropping to get close-ups. The lens does perform really well at the lower end of its range. Now, if I could train myself not to zoom in all the way when trying for action shots of birds I would be all set. The other alternative would be to buy a better quality lens, but that’s not going to happen for a while.

In the meantime, I’ll keep playing around to find out how far I can go before the resolution begins to drop off.

The only other shot of note today is this one.

Young cottontail rabbits

I have to thank one of my neighbors, Eugene, for pointing the bunnies out to me today. He was worried about the babies, as the mother didn’t seem to be around very often. I explained to him that the mother’s presence could be more dangerous for the young, as far as predators. It is easier for predators to spot the mother, if she stuck around the young most of the time, then the predators would be more likely to find her young. Young rabbits don’t have any scent to them, so it is hard for predators to find them.

It’s kind of funny, my neighbor couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about the bunnies. Apparently, I am acquiring the reputation as the “Nature Guy” around here because he told me “We thought that you knew about everything around here”. The “we” was not lost on me, it must be that more of my neighbors than I thought notice me while I am doing these daily walks. That explains all the questions of late from my neighbors about the wildlife here. Right now, most of the questions are about the young critters, people are worried about them. I suppose that I had better start doing a better job of knowing where all the babies are around here. 😉

I think that’s all for today, on to Tuesday.

Tuesday

It finally rained last night, washing some of the pollen and dust out of the air, and hopefully refilling the ponds and creeks. The leaves on the trees were beginning to rattle when the wind blew, it has been that dry. It’s much more comfortable this morning, and if the weather forecast is to believed, I may even have to put on a long-sleeved shirt later on this week. From highs around 90 degrees, it’s predicted that the highs will be around 60 degrees mid-week. That’s OK by me! Rain will still be sparse, we could use some more, but any is better than none. So, it’s time for me to get out there and enjoy this return to nicer weather.

It seems like the change in weather agreed with the critters as well, they were all out and about enjoying the cooler temperatures. So much so that I think that today’s entry will be a photo dump, and I’m not even going to throw in the bad action shots of a great blue, and a green heron.

Green dragonfly

Blue dragonfly eating lunch

Muskrat

Cottontail rabbits

Brown damselfly

Killdeer in flight

butterfly getting a drink

Barn swallow preening

Spotted sandpiper

butterfly, spotted sandpiper, and barn swallow in the same frame

Belted kingfisher flying overhead

Killdeer and its reflection

Don’t you just love it when you can stand in one spot and just shoot away at many different species at the same time?

Snapdragon

Unidentified butterfly

Unidentified butterfly

Young cottontail rabbits

I know, nothing that you haven’t seen here before, but hey, this is an apartment complex, and a truly amazing one it is! When you can go for a walk around here on a day like today and post these photos while throwing out several dozen others of other species, it has been a good day! There was one small tree that is producing berries already that had over a dozen birds in it feeding on those berries. There were cedar waxwings, several robins, a female cardinal, and a catbird all in that one small tree, and even though none of the photos are all that great, seeing that was special.

Too bad we didn’t have this kind of weather over the long holiday weekend, I could have tried out my new chair while sitting on the balcony. Maybe even get some photos of the birds that spend most of their time in the leaf canopy, one of these days I’ll try that.

In the meantime, it is supposed to cool off even more for tomorrow, that won’t bother me a bit.

That’s it for today, on to Wednesday.

Wednesday

Time for one of my morning rants, this time about customer service, and seeing a store brand that I liked to shop at going downhill. The store, JC Penney. Penney’s has been my “Go to” store for clothes for almost 40 years now, they have clothes that fit me at a reasonable price. At 6 feet 6 inches tall, the average store does not carry clothes that fit me correctly, JC Penney does.

So, the reason for the rant? A week ago Sunday, I placed an order online with both JC Penney and Cabelas. Last Wednesday, I received two things, the complete order from Cabelas, and an email from Penney telling me that everything that I had ordered was in stock, and they would even get around to shipping my order one of these days.

That’s not the type of customer service that I am used to when dealing with them. That goes with an article that I glanced through which attempted to explain why JC Penney was losing business. The author of the article chalked it up to the new CEO’s new value pricing system, which may be part of the reason why Penney is in trouble, but I think poor customer service is a big part as well.

It’s now a week after my order from Cabelas was delivered, and I’m still waiting for the order from JC Penney. Both orders were processed by distribution centers in the midwest, about equal distance away from me.

Waiting an extra week for an order to arrive isn’t really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life, but the difference between a growing brand, like Cabela, and what saddens me to say, a dying brand like JC Penney, can often be traced to one thing, customer service.

The flip side of all this is the excellent customer service from Cabelas! I have been dealing with them for a very long time as well, since they were a struggling small company trying to make inroads in the sporting goods industry. They continue to improve, and they continue to grow. Why is it so very difficult for upper management at some of these companies to see what it is that brings customers back time and time again over the years?

OK, I’m done with the rant, time for the real reason for this, my daily walk. It has cooled off, a lot. I actually thought about closing the windows this morning because it was so cool, but then, I wouldn’t have been able to listen to the birds singing as I was drinking my coffee. There are priorities! There’s even a frost advisory for the areas not too far north of me for tonight. Back to my kind of weather, cool nights, and pleasant daytime temperatures. So, it’s time for a walk!

Crisp, cool air, a mixture of sun and clouds, if it hadn’t been for time constraints, I probably would have filled my memory card today! There are so many things that I love about this time of year, the weather (most of the time), the sight and sounds of birds singing, new life coming into the world, but most of all, it’s the colors.

For six months, we get to see basically three colors, brown, grey, and white, or shades there of. I don’t think that mankind has come up with a color that something in nature hadn’t already been using.

Unidentified blue moth

Or, combinations of colors.

Moth or butterfly?

Or patterns.

Pine cone

Throw colors and patterns together, add some light, and check out the wings of this dragonfly.

Yellow dragonfly

Or these flowers.

Begonias

Blue flower

Miniature azaleas

And the birds.

Great blue heron in flight

A pair of American goldfinches

And even if the birds are brown and white, they live in green.

Song sparrow

Throw them all together, and you get things like this.

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Now then, for another bad action shot, a black-capped chickadee.

Black capped chickadee in flight

I have lots of chickadee photos, so I haven’t been trying to photograph them lately, and I decided today that it was one of the reasons I am getting slow on the trigger when it comes to getting better action shots. I had forgotten just how quickly the chickadees flit around, and I was having a really tough time getting any photo of them sitting, let alone flying. A few minutes of chasing them around made a remarkable difference in my reaction time.

I’ve spent too much time on pictures like these of late.

Canada goose

Canada geese

But, I wanted to get photos of the goslings to document their growth.

Canada geese

They’re growing almost as fast as the weeds they are eating. That’s all for today, on to Thursday.

Thursday

The rain is headed this way, so I want to get going before it gets here. We need it, and the next three days are predicted to be cool and wet, so there probably won’t be many photos from the rest of this week. That’s OK, as badly as we need the rain, I don’t need to be posting any more bad action shots for a while. 😉

Sorry every one, I am in a really foul mood after dealing with the staff and management for the apartment complex. It’s rent time again, and I went online to pay mine, as online payments are a feature they have just now gotten around to instituting. I wasted a good half hour to forty-five minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. First, when I went to sign on, I was told my password was invalid. OK, I’ll sign up again, so I filled out everything needed on the website, only to find that this complex is no longer on the list of those where you can pay online.

Great, I wasted all that time for nothing, I’ll write a check and hand deliver it to the office, which I did. Yet another new staffer who doesn’t know the system yet. First he told me I had made the check out for the wrong amount. Really? My rent’s been the same since November of last year, I may be dumb, but not so dumb as to not be able to look up what I have been paying for the last seven months and make this month’s check out for the same amount. “Oops, my mistake.” (Like I have heard that enough in the last two years, usually when they are accusing me having been late with the check the month before) Then, I had the great pleasure of standing there while he learned how to work the receipt book, and then learned how to fill out a receipt, which I was told I didn’t need, as my cancelled check is a receipt. (Yeah, but the receipt is quicker next month than having to get a copy of the cancelled check when you accuse me of having been late with the check this month) Besides, “You don’t have to pay in person, you can pay online (I tried that, it didn’t work) or drop the check in the drop box”. (But every time I drop a check in the drop box, you claim I’m late paying my rent, and I’m on to your little scam of trying to squeeze an extra twenty bucks a month out of me by claiming I was late with last month’s check)

Then, to top it off, I got back from my walk to find a letter in the mailbox from the management here. They’re too cheap to make any upgrades to the Internet service, so they are going to slap a limit on how much we can use the service. I loved the reason they gave, since some of who are signed up for the service actually use it, it isn’t fair to those who are signed up for it and don’t use it. Since this is an apartment complex, they have control over who you can have as an Internet provider, and the only one that they allow is their own re-branded service that they purchase from one of the cable companies. It’s that or go to a wireless provider, which I had used for years but wasn’t happy with either.

OK, the weather, it was cool and cloudy, so cool I was glad that I wore a rain jacket in case the rain made it here, which it didn’t, not until after I was done with my walk anyway.

I did chase a number of herons around the back pond, or I should say that the red-winged blackbirds and I chased the herons around. I didn’t get any shots of the actual chases, I was trying for some good stills, especially of the green herons. As I would be trying to get a still of one heron, another one would take flight to escape the attacking red-winged blackbirds, so here’s a few that I got.

Great blue heron with catch

Great blue heron swallowing its catch

Great blue heron taking off

Great blue heron in flight

The heron in that instance was actually headed back to its nest to feed its young. The great blue herons must nest to the west of me, and a number of them use the apartment complex as a flyway to and from their feeding grounds. As I was shooting the series above, two other great blues flew past me overhead going to the west, and one was headed east. That could have been one of the ones that had gone west previously.

There was also a pair of green herons at the back pond being chased around, I really tried for some good shots, but these two are the best of a bad lot.

Green heron in flight

Green heron sinking in the mud

The green herons are a lot tougher to photograph well because they are only the size of a crow, and almost as dark. The great blue seemed to know that I wasn’t as interested in it, as it kept posing close to me, and even chased off one of the greens to hunt where the green had been hunting.

That’s all for today, on to Friday.

Friday

My foul mood continues, and it has nothing to do with the dark, dreary, wet weather we are having. I love this kind of weather, even though I only took a couple of photos today, which I haven’t downloaded from my camera yet. They will go to the Weekly Challenge which this week is “Today” if they even came out.

I really need to make some changes in my life, as I have hinted at before. I am getting up there in years, and I am also tired of being too broke to afford to replace my vehicle, which is dying more everyday.

I’ve loved this apartment since I moved in, but it is too expensive for my current income, and this is really hard to admit, I now am eligible to move into senior housing or condo complexes. I just did a quick check online, and I can purchase a condo that is almost an exact duplicate of my apartment for $36,000, which would cut my housing expenses by over half. Not only that, the condo comes with a garage, which means I could get my big stuff out of a storage unit I currently rent, saving me another $110 a month.

I have ten years to go until I retire, and I don’t want to spend those ten years or my retirement stuck inside an apartment and not be able to do anything but take the typical old fart’s walk around the neighborhood. There are places I want to go and things I want to see before I die, and that’s not going to happen if I continue my current lifestyle.

And the level of service here at Byron Lakes continues to go downhill. I was so ticked off about the way they changed the level of Internet service here that I went over to the office to cancel the service at the end of June. They made me fill out the paperwork while they sat and watched. What a bunch of BS!

Before I go off on a real rant, I’d better get back on track. What cancelling my Internet service means is that my days of blogging will be over for a while. I will be sorry about that, but along with standing on principle as far as getting jerked around by management here, I will be saving $50 a month towards a condo and car. That’s not a lot, bt every little bit helps.

I have been using this blog as an excuse not to get on with my life and make the changes that need to be made. I have some faithful readers whom I will miss, but it will only be for a while. I may not be able to keep up with all posts from every one of the blogs that I follow, but I will get online from time to time in an attempt to keep up somewhat. I won’t end this blog, it will be more or less suspended for a while until I get my life where I want it to be.

Moving into cheaper housing will enable me to afford a better vehicle, and even go places again. So when I get back to blogging on a regular basis, this blog should be better than ever.

Until then, I have to get off my dead rear end and make things happen. As if to highlight the quandary I have been in over whether to move or not, I just stepped into the kitchen to grab something to eat before work, and one of the catbirds was perched on the railing of the balcony. I do love the wildlife here, much of which I have learned to identify individuals critters within their species.

A few of the condos that I glanced over when I did the quick check are close to this area, and I have walked some of the parks that are close by those condos, so I’m not sure there would be that big of a difference in my daily walks anyway.

To sum this all up, I will have Internet service until the last day in June, and I will continue this blog in its present format until then. After that, I will do an occasion post from time to time by using a wi-fi hotspot. I hope to have found a new place to live and be moved in by the end of the year, and then I will resume blogging full-time again.

Enough of that. The weather today, cold, dark, and misty. I have never seen such a heavy mist, I wouldn’t call it a rain, as I never saw raindrops making splashes in any of the puddles left over from the rain last night, but there sure was a lot of moisture in the air. And, I did come back very wet, on the outside. We still need more rain, the ponds and creeks are only back to normal, and according to the forecast, there’s a chance of rain until Monday.

I wore a winter parka today, as much because of the precipitation and wind as the cold, but I’m not sure that the temperature made it above 50 degrees while I was walking.

The weather today brought home a point that I have been meaning to make for some time now, how many and how much the male birds sing seems to be directly influenced by the weather. A few days ago when it was very hot, very few birds were singing. When it cooled off and we had sunny days with pleasant temps, the birds went insane with their singing. Today, cold, windy, and wet, almost no birds were singing.

I just got off the phone with my boss, and due to the holiday this past Monday, they are behind in their deliveries, and I will have to do a double run to catch up. That would normally mean a very long night tonight at work, but I think that I’ll do one run tonight, then the second one tomorrow or Sunday.

That’s it for today, sorry it wasn’t/hasn’t been more nature related the last few days, but I had things that I had to say. On to Saturday.

Saturday

It’s warming up a little, and the clouds are thinner, even a little sunshine from time to time. We needed the rain, and we may get more yet this weekend, which would be a good thing.

I am feeling much better! I am developing a plan to get me out of the mess that I have gotten myself into, and that’s always a good thing. It’s tough for me to admit to myself that I am in my “golden years” and now qualify to live in senior condos, but what the heck, I’ll take advantage of the lower prices and make it work to my advantage. I guess it’s my reward for having survived all the times I almost killed myself one way or another like racing dirt bikes or taking other risks.

All I need, and want, is a base of operations. Someplace to sleep and eat between outdoor adventures. Oh, and a place to store all the stuff I have for my outdoor adventures. 😉 This never being able to go anywhere because my vehicle is falling apart, and because I can’t afford to feed it all the gas it wants to consume has really gotten to me. Here it is the first of June, and I haven’t been fishing yet, haven’t visited my home away from home in the Pigeon River Country yet, and I’ve only gone kayaking once. No wonder I was down in the dumps.

I know that this lifestyle will have to continue through this summer, but at least the end is in sight!

Back from my walk, I may have been too early today, as since I have finished, the sun has come out. But, I had an enjoyable walk and even managed a few photos worth posting. I am still deciding if they should go in a separate post, or if I should include them here. I think that I’ll go in to work and do the second half of the double run while I think about that.

Since this is already too long with too many photos, I am going to do a separate post with most of today’s photos entitled Chow Time!

Here’s a couple of the others from today.

Cottontail rabbit relaxing

Fox squirrel not relaxing

And since raindrop photos always go over big.

Raindrops on a fallen leaf

And That’s all that I have time for today. I have to go back and fix the portion about Wednesday, as I’m not happy with it. Of course, you wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t told you. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by.


Chow time!

I have some photos from Saturday that more or less go together, some are from a series of photos of a pair of song sparrows gathering food for their young, and the other series is of cedar waxwings feeding on berries, as they often do. Other than that, the photos are self-explanatory, although I am a little surprised at how sharp some of the photos of the cedar waxwing came out. You’ll see several photos of one with a berry in its beak, and at those times, the bird was really pulling to free the berries from their stems, even shaking the bush to get the berries to come loose. I almost wish that there was a little blurring to convey the action, but you can’t have everything I suppose, so here they are, I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Song sparrow gathering food for its young

Now the cedar waxwings.

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

As an added bonus, a bad action shot of the day photo!

Cedar waxwing feeding on berries

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


The Weekly Photo Challenge: Today

OK, no cheating, these are the only two photos that I shot today. Hard to believe when I average close to 100 a day, but the way the weather was, this is what I got.

Raindrops on leaves

Raindrops on leaves

I should have cheated, or shot more if I had known what the challenge was going to be before I did my daily walk.

That’s it for this one, sorry. Thanks for stopping by!