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

My Week, does it ever end?

Sunday

Well, sitting here drinking my coffee, trying to decide if I should go in to work early, and walk in the afternoon, or walk now, and work later. Since it’s sunny and the wind is relatively calm right now, I guess I’ll go for a walk as soon as I finish breakfast.

I know that I have whined too much about the weather, but since this winter is going into the record books as one of the harshest on record, I think that I’m entitled to a little whining. Three days of warm weather melted just 6 inches of the snow on the ground, there’s still 18 inches left, so I still can’t get around very well. If the forecast for this week is correct, we’ll set one or two records for lowest temperatures for those dates. The overall temperatures for this coming week are forecast to be nearly 30 degrees below average. If we get as much snow as they are forecasting, this winter will go into the books as the second snowiest winter ever, and we very well may make the number one spot this winter if this pattern doesn’t break soon.

The strong winds on Friday pushed all the ice on Lake Michigan into piles along the Michigan shore, so there’s a lot of open water again now, which means more lake effect clouds and snow. Ice coverage on Lake Michigan went from 85% to less than 30%, but with record-setting cold this week, it will start to freeze back over again.

Well, I’m back, and despite the fact that I knew that I would nearly freeze my fingers off, I took the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) with me. The birds must have known that, most of them stayed well hidden today, probably staying out of the cold wind as well. It was a good thing that I took the Beast, otherwise this would be the only photo from today.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

As it was, the only birds that I managed to photograph were a red-bellied woodpecker and a robin.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

American robin fidgeting

American robin fidgeting

American robin

American robin

If I said any more about today, it would end up being about how cold it felt even with the bright sunshine, besides, I have to go to work and make the run that I didn’t on Friday because of the wind and snow.

Monday

Well, back to “normal” around here today, cloudy, cold, with light snow swirling around my window. I’m tired of saying that I’m tired of this winter, but it’s going to stick around for the foreseeable future. The long-range computer forecasts keep us below freezing for day time highs until the middle of March. Now that’s a depressing thought! Three more weeks of cold.

If that all holds true, then we may not lose the snow cover around here until April, as it will take more than a week of above freezing temperatures to get rid of all the snow that’s on the ground now, and we’ll only be adding to that over the next ten days.

If there’s any good news, it’s that my knees are improving with each day, since I’m taking it a bit easier at work. My left knee doesn’t bother me at all any longer, and even the right knee is getting much better. It’s still tender if I twist it too far, or if I put a lateral load on it, but at least I can walk in a straight line without limping any longer. So,I guess it’s time to bundle up and face the cold, again.

I’m back, and I’m going to attempt to not complain about the cold and the wind.

I took the Canon 70-200 L series lens with the Tamron Extender behind it today, and I noticed that the British soldier lichens that I photographed with the Tokina macro lens shortly after I purchased that lens were visible again. So I shot a number of photos of the lichen, but without a tripod, they all came out really bad, too bad to post here. That was mostly due to my not being able to stop the lens down to get enough depth of field, but the other part of the equation is still that I have a difficult time getting the L series lens and the Tamron extender to focus well together up close.

So, my three photos of the day are of a robin trying to stay warm while eating a few crabapple.

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

The first photo wasn’t cropped at all, the second and third were.

If there’s a bright side to this bad weather, I think that it is that I’m getting better at getting good photos under poor conditions. Maybe if this winter hangs on as long as it looks like it is going to, I’ll actually get good at photography in snowstorms. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In a way, I hate to post so many photos of the more common species as I have been, but that’s all that I’m seeing right now. I wouldn’t want my blog to become the fox squirrel photo of the day blog, but then again, as long as my photos continue to improve, then I’ll keep on posting what I see. The squirrel photo from yesterday ranks as one of the best that I have ever gotten in my opinion.

Tuesday

What’s to say other than cloudy and cold. Sorry that I sound like a broken record, but that’s the way that it’s been around here.

There will be one change today, I have a dental appointment just after noon today, so I won’t be walking today. Typically, I would try to sneak in a walk before or after the appointment, but I really see no reason to. Instead, I took this extra time today to post my weekly species of bird in the My Photo Life List project that I started last year.

I’m making good progress, and I have photos saved that will put me to the half-way point on the list of species that I am working from, but some of the photos are bad, and I hope to shoot better ones before I get to those species. Some of the photos that I have saved were shot with my old Nikon D 50 and 70-300 mm lens that I used to use, and they can’t hold a candle to the photos that I am getting with my new equipment. That’s the problem with upgrading your equipment, learning to use it correctly, and significantly increasing the quality of the photos that you get, you don’t want the world to see what you used to think was a good photo. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Since there won’t be a photo from today, I’ll use up this one that I shot one night last week after I arrived home from work, a rather rare sight in Michigan during the winter.

Moon

Moon

That was shot using the Beast and the Tamron extender and then cropped a bit, not too shabby.

Wednesday

A change in the weather! It’s sunny, but even colder than what it has been the past few days. The temperature when I got up was 4 degrees F, with a wind chill of -12 F.

I want to quit looking at the weather forecasts, as they all say that this cold is going to hang around through at least most of the month of March. But, I need to know what the weather is going to be for work, so I’m stuck listening to how cold that it is going to stay.

Well, there’s nothing I can do but bundle and trundle, be back later.

I’m back, and I’m trying to get some warmth back into my body. Some clouds and even snow moved through the area while I was out, but there was sunshine most of the time, even that wasn’t enough to kill the chill though.

The average high temperature for the first of March is 40 degrees F, the forecast high for today through Friday are 10 to 12 degrees, nearly 30 degrees colder than average.

It’s been so cold for so long that there have been many water main breaks in the past few weeks, and some cities are asking residents to keep a faucet or two dripping at all times to prevent the water mains freezing and bursting.

There have been more roof and even building collapses due to the weight of snow and ice, too many to keep up with of late.

I have to wonder if this constant cold is making my knee as bad as it has been. It’s been very cold in the trailer while I unload and load it, so cold that last night I broke down and wore a pair of heavy, insulated Carhart coveralls that have seen better days, but I’ve grown tired of freezing while working. I was very pleased with how good my knee felt last night when I got home, and even more pleased with the way that it felt this morning when I got up.

However, once I was outside in the cold this morning, by the time that I got past the building I live in, a dull ache was settling in my knee, so bad that I considered turning around. But, I didn’t, I trundled on. That has me thinking that I should start adding another layer to what I wear while I’m walking to protect my legs from the cold better. I’ll try that tomorrow to see if it helps.

I did manage to get a few photos today.

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Last week I posted a photo of Bertha and Bruiser, the mated red-tailed hawks, perched together in a tree that I’ve never seen either of them use before. Like most raptors, red-tailed hawks have a few favored trees that they perch in while hunting so it was unusual to see the two of them together in what I would consider an odd spot.

Today, Bruiser was perched in that same tree again, but I didn’t see Bertha. I did get a couple of poor photos of Bruiser as he moved on looking for better hunting grounds.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

IMG_8074

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Normally I would have deleted those two photos, but since I’m having trouble coming up with any photos, and they do remind me that Bertha and Bruiser seem to be changing their habits, I’ve included them today.

Thursday

I don’t know why, but the cold really got to me yesterday. It took forever for me to get warm again, even though there have been many days this winter when it has been just as cold as it was yesterday.

Speaking of just as cold, the weather today is almost an exact repeat of yesterday, some clouds and sun, with a stiff wind out of the west, and occasional snow showers passing through the area. We’ve already recorded what will likely be the high temperature for the day, as the temperature is falling now as the wind pushes another blast of Arctic air into the region. It’s a whopping 6 degrees (-14 C) outside as I type this.

At least it isn’t as bad as last night, when yet another system passed through the area, dropping more snow that blew around causing drifts large enough for many schools to be closed again today. We’re up to the third snowiest winter ever on record right now, the next storm over the weekend will likely move us up to the second position with over 9 feet of snow for the season. We’re just two inches from that “magical” mark.

As I look out the window, I can see the trees swaying in the wind, snow swirling around, and I see that the drift outside of the building has grown in height to the point where it is covering the bottom two inches of my window again.

I have decided that I am going to wimp out again, and not go for a walk today. I have already missed about as many days this winter as I have the past three years total up until this winter, but this is ridiculous! I know that my walk is supposed to be for the exercise, but I can exercise inside again today.

Okay, so I lied, I did go for a walk, I did a lap and a half around the apartment complex here. That way I didn’t have to dodge vehicles, or the slush and salt spray that they throw in my direction as I walk down the street to the park.

I felt like I was letting myself down by not going for a walk, and more importantly, I felt as if I was letting you, the readers of this blog down by not going.

Another factor in my decision to walk after all was that the other day when cleaning and organizing the storage closet of my apartment, I found the pair of heavy flannel lined and insulated jeans that my ex bought for me almost ten years ago. I have seldom worn those jeans, as I was still driving over the road, and packing on the pounds when my ex purchased them, and I soon outgrew them. Now that I have lost most of that weight, and I’m not looking to find it again, believe me, the jeans fit pretty well now, even with the wool/silk blend long underwear that I normally wear when it’s this cold.

Just as I learned at work, keeping my knee warmer helps considerably.

I even managed a few photos today.

A pair of mallards

A pair of mallards

Male mallard

Male mallard

Female mallard

Female mallard

I kind of like the last one, of the lone female in the snow, but none of the ones I shot today were as good as some of the ones that I got the last time I was in Muskegon.

Male mallard breaking ice

Male mallard breaking ice

I also found a female hairy woodpecker to shoot.

Female hairy woodpecker

Female hairy woodpecker

Hairy woodpeckers look almost identical to downy woodpeckers, the difference is that the Hairys are much larger than downys.

The really big news though is that with the updated snowfall totals from last night’s storm, we’re now over 9 feet of snow for the season, and solidly in second place as far as the snowiest winters on record.

Friday

Well, where do I begin?

I mentioned yesterday that when they updated the snowfall total from the storm yesterday that we had officially topped 108 inches, or 9 feet, (274 centimeters) of snow for the season, which puts us in second place for the all time snowiest winters.

I complained about the wind and drifting snow, they were bad enough that the Amtrak train that runs between Grand Rapids and Chicago got stuck in a snow drift and had to be pulled out by another locomotive.

So, how do we top that? Easy, set two record lows in one night.

The temperature dropped down to -9 F (-23 C) before midnight, so we broke the old record of -6 F for the 27th of February. The temperature continued to drop, down to -12 F (-24.5 C), so that’s the new record low for February 28th, breaking the old record of -2 F. It’s now back up to -8 F, so I think that I’ll fool around inside for a while before venturing out.

With two minor snow storms forecast to pass through the area this weekend, I’ll be staying home for another weekend. There’s no reason to drive somewhere to walk during a snowstorm.

You know, there are times when I wonder if I’m crazy, or merely foolish. I’m back from my walk, and guess what, it was bitterly cold out there today, go figure. What surprised me was the wind. It had gone calm overnight, which is why we got so cold last night. I assumed that the wind would still be light, wrong!

It’s not as if there were a howling gale blowing, but it doesn’t take much wind when it’s as cold as it was to make it feel a lot colder than it really is, like none of you knew that.

That brings up a couple of items I should throw in here before I whine about the weather any longer.

One of the local TV stations has their meteorologists do the weather report outside on the “weather deck”. Yesterday, the meteorologist outside didn’t finish his report, he was getting near the end when he said “This is bleeping nuts, I’m going inside where it’s warm”, and walked off the set.

Last night while the train was stuck in the snowdrift, one reporter was interviewing a passenger by phone and asked if the snow was deep. I don’t think that I have to type out the answer that the passenger gave. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Back to my walk. I didn’t feel like busting drifts today, so I walked down the street and back, rather than walking in the park. Keeping my knees warm both at work and while walking is helping a great deal, and I didn’t want to put any extra strain on them as they are improving daily. As cold as it was, I didn’t have to worry about slush or salt spray. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I even managed a few photos, starting with this one.

Left overs?

Left overs?

Those flowers or seed pods have to be left over from last fall, but if so, why haven’t I noticed them before now? That tree is in the apartment complex, I walk past it every day that I walk, and I check the tree for perched birds on most days. It must have been the light today that caused me to notice the seed pods today.

A male house finch did his best to hide from me.

Male house finch

Male house finch

Even though I didn’t have a clear view of the finch, I like that photo anyway.

I have noticed that the birds have stopped singing or even chattering for the most part after the burst of noises that they were making a couple of weeks ago. It must be that they realize that spring isn’t as close as it is supposed to be given how more daylight there is. Oh well, they’ll start singing again soon.

My last photo of the day.

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

Saturday

Well, it’s a new month, but we’re still stuck in the same old weather pattern, cloudy, cold, and a little snow left over from a weak system that moved through the area last night.ย Even though it’s 30 degrees warmer today than yesterday at this time, it’s still cold, and well below freezing.

The countdown to spring widget that I added to my blog tells me that there are only 19 days left until spring, stupid widget. That may be the official start of spring, however, I have no illusions or delusions that the changing of the seasons is going to go by the calendar this year.

It is March however, and even if the temperatures continue to run well below average, the average temperatures climb dramatically during the month, so we’ll see some thawing of the snow eventually.

Sorry, you can’t tell, but I drifted off there for a while, thinking of how nice it will be to walk on grass and be able to move around, rather than being stuck trying to stay on the hard packed snow trails that are the only places for me to walk at this time. That, unfortunately, is a long way off yet, there’s almost two feet of snow that has to melt first, then will come the mud.

The snow that’s on the ground now contains over 6 inches of water according to the hydrologists that study such things in order to be able to predict the flooding possibilities for this spring. So I suppose that it’s for the best if we have a long, slow warm up, rather than one as quick as I would like, but I’m sure that it’s going to be a muddy mess around here when the snow does eventually begin to melt.

Well, time for a walk.

I’m back, and it was a surprising day today. The birds were once again behaving as if spring were near, even though it didn’t feel or look like it is.

I worked harder today trying to get some so-so photos than I have in ages, you’ll see what I mean. It all started with a pair of mallards flying overhead, I got a poor shot of the male.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

About halfway between my apartment and the park, I spotted this hawk in the brush, and tried several angles trying to get a clear view of it.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Without much success, there were always branches in the way.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Once I got to the park, there were birds everywhere, except in places where I good get good photos.

Mourning doves

Mourning doves

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

This next one sums up the way that it’s been for me of late, but I decided to shoot anyway.

Northern flicker hiding

Northern flicker hiding

Part of the problem has been the deep snow, even when I venture off the paths to try to get good photos, the birds can see or hear me coming, so I can’t sneak up on them. But, there’s something else going on, I don’t know if it is due to the predators around or what, but all winter long the birds have been much more skittish than usual.

That changed for the better when I got to the far end of the park and I decided to take a break.

Cedar waxwings

Cedar waxwings

American robin

American robin

There was a flock of about thirty robins, and a flock of around a dozen waxwings, and a few individuals from each of the flocks would drop down out of the taller trees to the crabapple trees to wolf down a few of the crab apples left on the trees. They didn’t seem to mind my being there, several of the waxwings almost struck me as they flew past on their way to or from the food supply.

Even though the light was about as bad as it gets, I went crazy shooting photos of the birds eating the crab apples.

Cedar waxwing swallowing a crabapple

Cedar waxwing swallowing a crab apple

Rather than flood this post with all the photos that I shot today, I’m going to save them and parcel them out in next week’s post, unless I get better ones in the meantime.

It felt different outside today, it was cold, but it felt like a different kind of cold, a damp cold rather than the dry cold that has been the rule this winter. Or, was that all in my head because I know that it’s March, and that it should be warming up?

But then, why did the robins and waxwings show up today?

There’s been a few robins around here all winter, but never in the numbers that I saw today. I haven’t seen a waxwing in months. Do the birds have little calendars tucked in their feathers that they go by? Do they know that it’s March?

I know that birds go by the amount of daylight that there is but there’s still almost two feet of snow on the ground yet, it seems to me that the birds would stay south until there’s a better food supply for them as the snow melts. It will take some one with a lot more brains that what I have to figure that out.

Maybe the end of this winter is in sight, way off in the distance, but I’m not going to be holding my breath!

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

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15 responses

  1. Nice Robins, particularly “American robin fidgeting”.

    March 1, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    • Thank you!

      March 1, 2014 at 9:19 pm

  2. I’d say you have very good reason for whining. This winter has been utterly ridiculous East of here. I can’t imagine dealing with all that snow and cold. Having power outages on top of all that doesn’t bear thinking about. Amazing that you managed any pictures at all, much less the excellent ones you did get… even if they were the more common type birds.

    March 1, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    • Thanks for the very kind words! I think that some of it has to do with age. Back when we had these kinds of winter on a regular basis, I was in my early twenties and they didn’t bother me a bit. But now that I’m almost 60, tramping through two feet of snow isn’t my idea of fun any more.

      March 1, 2014 at 9:21 pm

  3. At least you had a little sunshine and got some good shots. I like the shots of the squirrel and the cedar waxwing with a face full of crabapple.
    The tree in question is a tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) and those are what’s left of last year’s seed pods. They’ll fall off soon.
    They say we’ll see 32 degrees Thursday, but it must be that it’s going to go south of you and then swing up this way.
    Glad the knee is feeling better!

    March 1, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    • Thanks for the ID of the tree and the support.

      It may make it to freezing here by the end of the week, but I’m not holding my breath, the medium length computer forecasts have a tendency to overstate either colder or warmer temps this far out.

      Keeping my knee warm is helping a lot, it’s getting back to normal again.

      March 1, 2014 at 11:35 pm

  4. Very crisp duck shots. I can’t wait to see what you can do when the weather relents.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    • Thanks, and I’ll try to live up to your expectations.

      March 2, 2014 at 11:51 pm

  5. OMG, I scrolled down from the top and literally jumped in my skin when I saw the fox squirrel staring at me. Wow, I can’t believe how difficult of a winter you’ve been having. I wonder if its enough to make you want to move to warmer climes.

    Although the variety of birds are certainly hard to leave though. I love Bertha and Bruiser, what great names for a special couple.

    For the jeans – how awesome is that? Not only did you find them, but you’re fit and trim and can slide right into them. I had no idea that you were having trouble with your knees. Serves me right not to keep up with you. I’ll read back and see what happened. Hopefully you’re on the mend and they don’t bother you much going forward.

    Can’t believe that you’ve been moved to the arctic without realizing it, wow, those temperatures you’re quoting are just outrageous. How I wish I could send warm sunshine and blue skies to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    March 5, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    • Thank you! Gotta love the squirrels, since they love to pose for me.

      This winter has been the worst in forty years, this isn’t a typical Michigan winter. And, there’s so much about this state to love, that it would be hard for me to move anywhere else.

      The jeans fit, just, not because I’m fit and trim, but because I’m no longer as fat and out of shape as I was when driving over the road.

      March 6, 2014 at 2:59 am

  6. Oh my stars, I just LOVE that shot of the cedar waxwing swallowing the crabapple! That is too great! The moon is pretty awesome, too. Right this moment it is snowing like crazy here and my daughter and son-in-law are enjoying a vacation in Arizona! Trying not to be too jealous! I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be warm. Since I’m off work today thanks to the snow, I’m catching up on all the notifications in my e-mail in-box! ๐Ÿ™‚ Think warm thoughts!

    March 12, 2014 at 11:39 am

    • Thank you! I’ve heard that this last storm is worse over there than here for a change. We only got two or three inches, the sun came out and melted it as fast as it had fallen.

      March 13, 2014 at 2:37 am

      • I’m not sure how much we ended up getting because the wind was blowing 40 MPH straight down out of the north causing it to drift. There was at least 6 to 8 inches on our front porch. We have a fantastic neighbor with a big tractor who plows our driveway – he has been a life saver this winter! Last night we went down to below zero and set a new record for low temp. that had stood since 1946 (I think that was the year.) I am home again today, another snow day for the schools because the roads are an icy mess. The one good thing is that the snow day allowed me to catch up on the blogs I enjoy following. ๐Ÿ™‚ Tomorrow is supposed to be in the 40’s – yea!!! But over-all the long-term outlook is for temps to stay below average.

        March 13, 2014 at 8:40 am

  7. WOW! YOU have captured some beautiful shots of some birds I do not get to see any more. I am a new Arizonian… so… many of those birds are not seen by me anymore. THANK YOU for sharing!!!

    March 15, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    • Thanks Nancy, I’m glad that you enjoyed them. I’d trade weather with you if it were possible. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      March 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm