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


Loda Lake, one of a kind

With three days off from work for the 4th of July holiday, and a good weather forecast, I decided to spend my first day off, July 4th, at Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary.

I’ll start with a few nuts and bolts, a link to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service web site which has some information, including good directions, on the sanctuary. Michigan Garden Clubs, Inc. is a management partner for Loda Lake, and here’s more about the sanctuary from their website.

Loda Lake is an area that includes a small spring-fed lake, a bog-like wetland area, a creek and riparian marshy areas, oak forest, pine plantations, and an early successional old farm site. Botanist Clayton Bazuin noted, “Loda Lake is ideally suited as a wildflower sanctuary and although near one of Michigan’s busy highways, can still be a natural reservoir of wild plants. This is due to the large number of ecological associations it affords in which they may survive”. Loda Lake is the only Wildflower sanctuary in the National Forest System, a project supported both financially and botanically by the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan for over seventy years. Informational signs are located at several locations throughout the area, including several around the remains of the structures. A resurgence in restoring the area has led to several new native plant restoration efforts, along with the development of educational and information tools, including trail guides, maps and a teacher’s guide. With the assistance of the Garden Clubs, the Forest Service has been able to identify over 500 plant species within the Wildflower Sanctuary, as well as identifying several cultural sites and historic trails.”

And, here’s how the sanctuary came into being.

Loda Lake was once a virgin pine forest. In the late 1890’s the Pere Marquette Railroad harvested the timber before selling the land to the Hansons, railroad stockholders. Full of stumps and
logging debris, Mr. Hanson felt the land was worthless. Thomas Hunt, a family friend, convinced him that it could be successfully farmed using scientific methods.

The Hunt family farmed the area for several years. Mr. Hanson later built a substantial summer home with several outbuildings on the other side of the lake. The remains of the farm buildings and the Hanson dwellings are highlighted on the Cultural trail.

The land was declared “sub-marginal” in 1937 and sold to the U.S. Forest Service. At that time, the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan, now Michigan Garden Clubs, were looking to establish a wildflower sanctuary in the state. A cooperative agreement was signed in 1949, a partnership that continues to this day.”

Before I get to my day there, and the photos, I have a few other things to touch on, the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary is the perfect tie in for this.

The State of Michigan has more public land than any other state east of the Mississippi River, and in a way, Loda Lake is a great example of why that is.

When the first Europeans got to what is now Michigan, they found it covered in great forests, but considered the land too marshy or poor for farming. However, the population of the United States was growing at a rapid rate, and that required housing for the people coming here from Europe. The forests of Michigan supplied much of the timber for the new houses. Michigan led the nation in lumber production from the 1850s to the 1880s. Since Michigan is rather flat, it was relatively easy to cut down the trees, and float them down the nearest river to sawmills that lined the shores of the Great Lakes. The lumber from the sawmills could be loaded onto ships and transported to booming cities that ringed the Great Lakes, such as Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, to name a few.

In less than half a century, most of Michigan’s great forests had been cut, and most of what trees that were left burned in a series of massive wildfires fueled by the debris left from the logging. Some of the fires were so hot and intense that the soil was destroyed, and to this day, very little will grow in these places. The rivers had been all but destroyed by floating millions of logs down them. Michigan was left an environmental disaster.

After the logging and fires, most of Michigan became farmland, but the majority of the farms failed, due to the poor soil here, and that’s not just because of the fires. Michigan is a product of the glaciers during the last ice age, at least the Lower Peninsula is. For the most part, Lower Michigan is a pile of sand and gravel left here as the glaciers melted, so the soil isn’t suitable for growing farm crops. There isn’t much topsoil here.

So in many respects, the history of the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary represents the history of lower Michigan. The land was logged, some one attempted to farm it, the farming failed, so the land was sold in this case, but simply abandoned in other cases, and became the property of the United States Government. Again, in other cases, the land became the property of the State of Michigan.

That’s part of the legacy of Michigan’s history, another part is this. So many people witnessed the destruction of an entire state’s environment as quickly as it happened here, that conservation efforts took hold here as they have in few other places. Many groups sprang up to preserve what little was left of nature here in Michigan, and/or to rehabilitate what had been destroyed. You know the old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, comes to mind. Most of what had been here had been destroyed in less than a person’s lifetime. That’s one of the many reasons that Michigan has the largest system of State Parks, Recreation Areas, and State Forests of any state in the US, and more land open to the public than any state east of the Mississippi River.

So, with that part done, it’s time for me to get going on my day there at Loda Lake. I’ve seen it featured in many blogs, and in articles in the newspapers, but had never been there until this day. Unfortunately, my timing was off, and there weren’t many of the flowers that it’s known for in bloom at the time. That’s okay, for it’s a popular place in the early spring, and I’d rather scope out a place when there are fewer people around. That gives me the chance to get a true feel of a place, and the feeling that I got at Loda Lake is that it is truly a magical place. I could understand why so many people worked to preserve it for future generations. What makes it so special is that there are a number of different types of habitat coming together in one extended area. Or as the botanist said in the quote from earlier in this post, “This is due to the large number of ecological associations it affords in which they may survive”.

Well, guess what besides flowers love that type of area? Birds, and I saw a good number of both species and overall number of birds there. In fact, I think that I’ll have to make this one of my regular birding stops since it isn’t much farther from home than Muskegon is. I even got another lifer there, with the possibility of several more.

But, since this is about a wildflower sanctuary, I should begin the photos with a few of the flowers that I found, even though I shot most of these during my second walk through. I had arrived at sunrise, and many of the flowers hadn’t opened for the day during my first lap, I shot mostly birds then. Since the trail is only 1 and 1/2 miles long, it was easy enough to do two full laps, with lunch in between. So, here are the flowers, in no particular order.

Beard's tongue

Beard’s tongue

Unidentified small white flowers

Enchanter’s Nightshade



Woodland sunflower

Woodland sunflower

Woodland sunflower

Woodland sunflower





Partridge berry

Partridge berry

Swamp rose

Swamp rose





Another unidentified small white flower

Another unidentified small white flower

Indian pipes

Indian pipes

Seeing the bee on the indian pipes surprised me, I didn’t think that they were true flowers since the plants lack chlorophyll. The bee didn’t hang around long, so here’s a better shot of the indian pipes.

Indian pipes

Indian pipes

Later, I found one of the indian pipes pointed up, and saw that they are indeed true flowers.

Indian pipe flower

Indian pipe flower

While my timing as far as time of the year for the most flowers was off, my timing for the weather couldn’t have been better! Good light and almost no wind made it easy to get the photos that I did, and it was a great way to test out the new Canon 100 mm L series macro lens.

In addition to the flowers there were plenty of fungi and a few lichens to be seen there.

Assorted lichens and mosses

Assorted lichens and mosses

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

I’m not sure if this next one was a fern or a sensitive fern, which isn’t a true fern. I was a bit busy shooting birds at the time, which you’ll see shortly.

Fern "flowers"?

Fern “flowers”?

I think that this next photo will get Allen’s interest, I believe that it’s a slime mold, but I have no idea which species.

Slime mold?

Slime mold?

To give you an idea of the size, the two horizontal lines of the stuff in the center and rear of the frame are on pine needles, and the wet bit of plant towards the foreground is a blade of dead grass, with another pine needle cutting the lower left of the frame.

Okay then, now for the birds, and these are only the ones that I tracked down for good photos, except for this first one. It’s a female least flycatcher running across the forest floor collecting feathers to line her nest.

Female least flycatcher

Female least flycatcher

How she could see where she was going as fast as she was moving, I have no idea, but she sure was in a hurry and never stopped moving.

These are much better, and I’ll start with the lifer, a veery.

Male veery singing

Male veery singing

Male veery singing

Male veery singing

It was mighty nice of him to perch out in the open like that to sing, as usually they stay well hidden in the leaves, like this one tried to do.



In fact, most of the birds that I did get photos of typically stay hidden in the leaves, but getting there early had its advantages.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Male American redstart

Male American redstart

Male American redstart

Male American redstart

Female American redstart

Female American redstart

Female American redstart

Female American redstart

Female common yellowthroat

Female common yellowthroat


Great crested flycatcher

These are the ones that make me smile the most though, as I walked out onto the boardwalk over the bog, I found a family of blue-grey gnatcatchers looking for breakfast.

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Any one who has tried to photograph small birds can relate to this next series. The smaller birds never really stop moving, these are from a series shot in slow burst mode with the 7D and took less than three seconds to shoot, and I deleted the blurry ones in the series.

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

It took you longer to scroll through those than it did for me to shoot them, and you can see that this was a hungry little thing, very intent on finding insects hidden in the leaves.

Anyway, I have a few more photos to share, a mother mallard and her brood crossing the lake, as it reminds me of the serenity of the place.

Mother mallard and brood

Mother mallard and brood

Mother mallard and brood

Mother mallard and brood

The one “landscape” type photo that I shot there. There’s really nothing special about it, but I like it, it shows the way that the forests in northern Michigan look in most places.

The woods at Loda Lake

The woods at Loda Lake

And finally, one that I forgot to insert earlier in this post, a prickly pear cactus.

Prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactus

So, that’s all the photos, and all that I’m going to ramble on about this trip to Loda Lake, as I’m certain that I’ll being going back many times in the future. It really is a one of a kind place.

That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!



My week, you can never go home again?


On Saturday, I went up to the Leelanau Peninsula.

You can read the good side of the day here for the Leelanau Peninsula, and here for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

I spent a considerable amount of time there in the 1970’s, mainly hunting and fishing. That’s hard to believe these days.

I’m going to attempt to limit my negativity, as it is a beautiful area, but that’s going to be difficult.

The area was known as a fruit-growing area, with dozens of orchards dotting the landscape. Because of the moderating influences of Lake Michigan, that part of Michigan leads the nation in the production of tart cherries, and ranks high for the production of other fruit, such as apples, sweet cherries, and pears.

In the late 1970’s two things happened which changed the face of the area forever, the creation of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and the influx of a large number of rich liberals Yuppies.

The park was authorized on October 21, 1973. The park’s creation was highly controversial because it involved the transfer of private property to public. The Federal government’s stance at the time was that the Great Lakes were the “third coast” and had to be preserved much like Cape Hatteras or Big Sur, which are National Seashores. The residents living in what is now Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore believed they were stewards of the land and did not want it to be overrun by tourists. The Government eventually won out using strong-arm tactics to force local residents out of their homes and businesses.

I had come to know a few of the people in the area, they were not at all happy about being forced out of their homes, and/or losing their livelihood. The government then let out contracts to concessionaires to run businesses much like the locals had run, such as canoe liveries. The government denied permits to the locals, and awarded the contracts to outside people who had the money to bribe donate to the correct political party in power.

The Yuppies moving into the area was very much like what I read about is going on in the Jackson Hole, Wyoming area these days.

The Yuppies looked down their noses at the locals, whom they referred to as hicks or hillbillies. Any one who hunted or fished was a redneck. The rich liberals did their best to drive both the hicks and rednecks away. They also took over the local governments by promising one thing, and doing another. (Sound familiar?) What they promised was to preserve the rural character of the area, and the natural beauty. What they did was to use local zoning ordinances to hamstring the local farmers and tax them out of existence. (Sound familiar?)

Of course, Yuppies are motivated by one thing, money! So, if any one waved enough green under their noses, those people were allowed to build any monstrosity anywhere. Instead of rural farmland, now there are mega resorts, huge gated communities, and some of the ugliest buildings ever designed by man as a blight on the ridges to the northeast of Traverse City.

This weekend was the first time that I’ve been there in years, it’s nothing like it used to be at all. And the crowds! I couldn’t get to many of the places that I wanted to photograph because there was either nowhere to park, or lines of traffic a quarter of a mile long or longer waiting to get to a place to park. I swear, I could have walked down the Platte River all five miles from the M 22 bridge to the mouth of the river where it empties into Lake Michigan without getting my feet wet by walking on the tubers, kayakers, and canoeists on the river. The Crystal River was only slightly less crowded.

Those rivers are being destroyed by that volume of people, but the government doesn’t care as long as they get their cut of the profits from the concessionaires.

Turns out that the local hicks and hillbillies were correct, that the area has become overrun with tourists.

Yes, I feel like a hypocrite for doing a couple of posts about how beautiful the area is, then complaining about how crowded it has become in this one. But, like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, it’s one place that every one should see once in their life. Besides, the crowds will soon tire of the crowds, the area will no longer be trendy, and eventually, the crowds will thin out.

Something else happened up there as well. All day long I saw small things, birds and flowers, that I wanted to photograph, but for the most part, didn’t. I didn’t really have the time if I wanted to hit all the landscape photo ops that I had planned on.

I got to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse not long before sunset. I shot a few photos, but was going to wait for slightly better light, then shoot a few more. While waiting, I jumped a doe and two small fawns in the woods near the light. While chasing them, I found a trove of wildflowers that were begging to be shot. Having some time to kill, I did so.





Grey-headed coneflowers

Grey-headed coneflower

Whitetail doe and fawns

Whitetail doe and fawns

I sat down on a bench to wait for the light, and it hit me like a ton of bricks, I love photographing flora and fauna much more than I do landscapes, and always have. Don’t get me wrong, I like shooting landscapes, but it isn’t my first love. That probably explains a lot. You may not guess that though after looking at the photo of the deer. They were in shade so deep that I had trouble seeing them with my naked eyes, I cranked in a full stop of exposure compensation, and took a shot. I’m surprised that the photo turned out as well as it did.

But I digress. There I was, sitting on the bench thinking about how much more I had enjoyed myself the last half hour chasing deer and shooting flowers than I had all day long fighting the crowds. Since I had planned on staying overnight, I was trying to think of places to start out in the morning, but drew a blank. I decided that I had enough of fighting crowds, and that I would enjoy myself more anywhere other than in the swarm of humanity I had dealt with all day. So, I didn’t even wait to see what the light would do at sunset, I packed it up, and headed for home.


One or two more things from yesterday. I used to consider the Leelanau Peninsula to be my second home, since I loved it there, and spent so much time there. Now, I consider the Pigeon River Country to be my second home, even though the scenery pales in comparison to the Leelanau area.

There are lessons to be learned from those two places and the way that they’ve changed over my lifetime. Leelanau has become everything that it shouldn’t have become, a huge money driven tourist trap of sorts. What used to be old family farm houses are now trendy shops, boutiques, or art galleries. Many of the orchards have converted to, or added vineyards, which isn’t a bad thing at first glance. But, now you have thousands of tourist taking the winery tours, and getting crocked at all the wine tasting stops, then driving like the drunks that they are.

The Pigeon River Country has been allowed to revert back to its wild state for the most part, as a result, very few “nature lovers” ever visit the area, and there are fewer people visiting now, then back in the 1970’s.

Oh well, I’ll have to ponder a little longer on all of that. For my walk today, not much was going on, but I managed a few shots, starting with a turkey vulture in flight.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch in flight

Male American goldfinch in flight




In a change of my typical routine, I overslept this morning rather than waiting for Wednesday. That could be because the heavy cloud cover has kept it almost as dark as night, and some very welcome rainfall has been falling this morning. So, I’m fooling around this morning waiting for the rain to clear the area, which looks to be over with for at least the time being.

My mistake, the rain had fooled me into thinking it was over, just long enough to get outside. Not that it mattered, I suspected as much and was prepared.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the show that a scantily dressed attractive young woman put on for me in the park today. I don’t know if it was a police sting looking for Johns, or a real hooker, but it sure made the day a lot more interesting than normal! Sorry guys, no photos, this is a family blog.

Other than that, it was an enjoyable walk in the rain, that didn’t leave me much to prattle on about. Besides, I’ve devoted too much space to this past weekend’s trip, so I’ll cut today short to make up for that.


The sunshine has returned, and it has turned even cooler than it has been, the first shot of fall weather. Too bad that it won’t last but a couple of days. They are forecasting a heat wave of sorts for next week, so I’m going to enjoy this shot of cool air while it lasts!

The birding forecast for this weekend is looking good as well, with a good many shorebirds being seen in Muskegon, along with a few raptors that I could use photos of. I’ve already made the arrangements at work to do half my Friday run Friday night as I usually do, then go home, and finish it up on Sunday. That will let me get some sleep Friday night so that I can be in Muskegon early to join with the Muskegon County Nature Club to go on their field trip with them.

I should be making plans for the long Labor Day weekend, but after fighting the crowds and traffic this past weekend, I’m considering sticking close to home. When I visit many of the places that I go around here, I see very few people, and I could use that right now. Besides, I can save money staying home.

Time to get a move on.

After this past weekend, I came up with the title for this post. After my walk this morning, I added the question mark.

For the newer readers of my blog, up until last fall I lived in an apartment complex where I was able to photograph many herons, geese, ducks, and swans. I thought that those days were over, other than mallards and an occasional goose around here, but I was wrong.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Much to my surprise, there was a young heron fishing in one of the small ponds here. So, I found a good spot where I was somewhat hidden, and started filming the action. As you can see, the heron made a nice catch early on.

Then, for no reason that I could fathom, the heron charged a flock of mallards resting on the bank of the pond.

Juvenile great blue heron charging mallards

Juvenile great blue heron charging mallards

Once the heron had the mallard’s attention, it waded right past the flock as if they weren’t there.

Juvenile great blue heron wading past mallards

Juvenile great blue heron wading past mallards

As soon as the heron was past them, the mallards all dove into the pond…..

Mallards going for a community swim

Mallards going for a community swim

Splashed around a little….

Bath time

Bath time

…then just as quickly, went back on shore.

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

In the meantime, the heron had made another catch.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Whatever it was, it must not have tasted good to the heron, for the heron bent back over and released whatever it was back into the water gentle as you please. I’ve never seen a heron practicing catch and release before. 😉

I was hoping that the heron would continue around the pond closer to where I was, but I had no luck with that.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron taking off

Juvenile great blue heron taking off

Juvenile great blue heron in flight

Juvenile great blue heron in flight

It was kind of nice shooting some of my old favorites again, and I was thinking that I would have to change the title of this post, when I came to the next pond, and another heron.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

I had watched the first one fly off into the distance, there’s no way that this is the same one. Besides, this one posed nicely for me, none of these are cropped.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

It was just like old home week at my other apartment!

For the technical details, all those were shot with the 70-200 L series lens, minus 1/3 EV, and ISO 100. I may have stopped the aperture down a little too far in those last shots. The camera was set to program mode as is usual, but I was dialing the shutter speed down to stop down the aperture for more depth of field to make sure that I had the entire heron in focus. I’ve had trouble getting all of larger birds in focus before, and I didn’t want it to happen today. I think that the photos would have been a touch sharper if I hadn’t adjusted as much. I think that I got the shutter speed a little too low. But we’ll see, I’m sure that I’ll get another chance.

I probably should have shot a few at -2/3 EV as well, I forgot that the camera was still set to center weighted metering mode for shooting the landscapes this past weekend.

A week or two ago, I took the slight amount of extra contrast that I had the camera set to render out of the settings, as I found that when I got the exposure correct, I was getting a little too much contrast. Our eyes tend to mistake contrast for sharpness, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. So, anyway, between having the camera set to center weighted metering, and having taken that little bit of extra contrast out, I should have gone down another 1/3 stop on the EV for a little more contrast in these.

I’ve set the camera back to partial spot metering, which works much better for birds and flowers, most of the time. Using partial spot metering, I can go down 1/3 stop and keep it there for everything other than birds against the sky.

Sorry about the last few boring paragraphs, but typing that stuff out helps me to remember what I am doing and why, and to make sure that I check all my settings from time to time.


Another perfect day weather wise, I’m getting spoiled. Cool sunny days, and crisp overnight temperatures are not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the weather in August here in Michigan, but that’s what we’ve had. There’s even less wind today than there was yesterday, so maybe I’ll be able to get a few shots of flowers today. There’s a few late season flowers about to open soon, and I could do a better job of a few that I shot last week.

I’m back, and things were interesting in the park today. No hookers today, but there were guards from the mental hospital up the road rounding up what I think was a walk away from the facility. I didn’t pay enough attention to what was going on to be positive, but that what a glance in the direction of the guards and a person who didn’t seem very cooperative from time to time suggested.

I’m probably not being politically correct calling the facility a mental hospital, sorry. I don’t know the correct term as prescribed by the PC police these days. I do know that the doctors there saved my ex-wife’s life, and that the patients there are nothing to be wary of for the most part. I’m sure that there are a few dangerous patients, but for the most part, the patients are good people in a bad situation in life.

I also noticed that some of the play groups don’t play well together. It humorous in a way. Group A will be at the playground in the lower part of the park when group B arrives. Group A will then pack up and move to the playground in the upper part of the park. Group B will then follow Group A up there, at which point, group A will return to the lower level. I don’t stick around long enough to see how many times they will move, but it seems like they would be able to either work out their differences, or divide the park between the two groups rather than chase each other around. I never will figure people out.

Anyway, I shot a few photos worth posting today. I’ll start with the bugs.

White butterfly

White butterfly

Bee's eye view of a bee

Bee’s eye view of a bee

Neither of those shots came out exactly as I intended, but they are close enough.

Now, the blooms. I found some downy lobelia blooming in the sun, the other shots I have posted lately were taken in deep shade. So, I needed to take a test shot or two of the first of the flowers opening for when the plant is in full bloom.

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

I’ve also posted many photos of Queen Anne’s lace of late, but these shots were too good to pass up.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

I don’t want to brag (too much) but I think that I pulled off something very tough to do in those last two. The white flowers against a dark, almost black background makes those shots high contrast, but I was able to soften the sunlight to the point where the photos look like a low light shot. The photos are sharp, yet the overall photos have the appearance of a soft focus shot. So, I came up with high contrast/sharp photos with the appearance of being soft light/soft focus at the same time. They may not wow, but I think that those are the two best photos that I have ever taken, technically and artistically.

Here’s a flower I haven’t photographed lately.



And, the goldenrod is just getting started.



I’ll wrap today up with the birds, all male American goldfinches. They are everywhere this time of year.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

I’ll bet that there’s at least one in this mass of wildflowers.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Yup, sure is.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Sorry that I’m posting so many shots of the finches lately, but they’re one of my favorite species of birds. They are as cheerful and even comical as chickadees, but with a beautiful song, and brighter colors. Besides, since so many species of birds are already headed south from what I can tell, I’m running out of birds to photograph.


We’ve been flirting with record low temperatures overnight the past few nights, but haven’t set a new record yet. It’s too bad that this pleasant weather is only going to last through the weekend, before the heat returns next week. This has been a string of phenomenal weather as far as I’m concerned, so I’m going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

I’m all fired up for this Saturday, when I’m going birding in Muskegon once again. Not only are the shorebirds there in numbers, but people have seen merlins and peregrine falcons as well. I have to remember to give the UV filter on the Sigma lens a good cleaning before I go. In fact, I should do that this morning before I go for my walk, then use the Sigma lens today for any birds, just to get used to using it again. It’s been a few days since I’ve had it on the camera. It’s been a joy to carry just the two shorter lenses the past two weeks, but it’s time to get used to carrying and using the beast again.

Okay, I’m back, and I not only did I carry the beast, but I also put it to good use, at least I think so. Since it’s been a while since I used it, and there was a flock of geese in the complex, I started out by shooting a shot of a headless goose, just in case I didn’t see anything later on worth photographing.

Headless Canada goose

Headless Canada goose

Canada goose with head

Canada goose with head

As is usually the case, I spied a couple of things that I wanted to change lenses for, but I had forgotten the case for the Sigma, so I had no way to carry it off from the camera, so I made do with it.

Rabbit's foot clover

Rabbit’s foot clover

Purple wildflower

Purple wildflower

That reminds me, the forecast was for calm winds for the next few days, which was totally wrong. There was a stiff southwest wind blowing this morning that continues to blow now. Anyway, after those shots, I got down to some serious birding for a change, starting with a rather grumpy goldfinch.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Maybe he didn’t like having some one photographing him as he preened?

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Next up is a catbird, nothing spectacular, but there’s two reasons I shot this. One was to get the best shot that I could under trying circumstances, the other was because this catbird was one of a half-dozen species of birds hanging out under one small bush. I also got shots of a song sparrow and goldfinch there, but missed the robins, starlings, and English sparrows. Why all those birds were packed in together, I couldn’t tell, there must have been something there that they were all feeding on.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Next up is a male cardinal that I see on almost a daily basis. He does not like to have his photo taken, as I have chased him around several times. He’ll get behind a branch, start singing, and the second I work my way around to get a clear view of him, he moves so that there’s something between us. I think that I posted photos of him in action before. I got him singing today!

Male northern cardinal singing

Male northern cardinal singing

Then to really tick him off, I cropped another photo down so that every one has a good look at him.

Male northern cardinal singing

Male northern cardinal singing

A little later, this guy came hopping down the path towards me, stopping off now and then for a bite to eat. Since he was headed my way, I just stood there and shot a photo every few hops until I got these two.

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

On my way back, I saw a couple of cedar waxwings fly out of a honeysuckle bush to perch in a tree overhead. I was about to shoot a photo of one of them in the tree, when I spotted movement in the honeysuckle bush. This cedar waxwing dropped down into the open for this shot.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

That’s not cropped at all, when I first got him in the viewfinder, I couldn’t get a focus lock because he was too close. So, I stepped back half a step, and got this, just before he flew off to join the others in the tree above. I shot a few photos of them in the tree, and they came out fairly good, but there’s no reason to post them after that shot above.

I think that it was a good idea to take the beast today, and to warm up on the earlier photos of the birds that I have posted today. I’m not sure that I would have been able to get that last one without “warming up” on the earlier ones. I think that I’ll bring the beast tomorrow as well, along with its case, so that I can get better photos of the flowers, along with more practice for the birding trip on Saturday.

One last thing, I am deleting photos now that I would have loved to have gotten with my old Nikon. The heron from yesterday is a great example, I shot over a dozen photos of it, and they were all better than any I had taken with the Nikon. But, they’re not as good as I can get with the Canon, so there’s no reason to post, or save them. It was the same with the birds today, I deleted more photos than I posted, not that there was anything wrong with them, but I can do better, so into the recycle bin they go.


Yesterday I posted with a poll for my regular readers to vote for how I should continue this blog, the results were overwhelmingly in favor of switching themes, so I have. At least for the time being. I really like this new theme that I have chosen so far, but it’s time to see if I can get my photos to display larger.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

I think it will work! I know that I said that I would give it a week before I decided, but almost every one who does read my blog and comment regularly have cast their votes already, and I wanted the waxwing to display as large as possible. It’s not everyday that I get that good of a shot!

I like the drop down menus that this theme allows, I plan to make good use of that in the future.

I know that I’ll fill up my free space quicker using this theme, but I also knew that I’d have to start shelling out for more space eventually anyway.

I also realized after I posted the poll that if I switched over to a new blog, that the posts for the My Photo Life List project would end up spread over two different blogs. That idea didn’t appeal to me at all, neither did all the work of transferring the posts and pages that I have completed over to a new blog.

And finally, it will be good to have everything under one roof so to speak. I had been leaning towards a new blog, I glad that most people who voted changed the direction I was leaning in. 😉

Now then, the weather continues to be better than I could hope to expect for the end of summer. I haven’t shut my windows in weeks, although I’m afraid that it will change this weekend.

I’m back from my walk, and I have some very good photos to sort through to decide which ones to post.

There are advantages to living close to the local airport. I was walking along, deep in thought, but I could hear an airplane behind me. That’s not unusual at all, it happens many times a day while I’m walking. However, eventually the drone of four huge piston engines worked its way through my thick skull, and I turned around to see this.

The World War II era B-17 bomber "Aluminum Overcast"

The World War II era B-17 bomber “Aluminum Overcast”

I had read in the news that this plane was going to be at the airport this weekend, and I was slightly ticked off that I didn’t turn around sooner for a better shot. I lucked out though, it did another fly by a bit later on.

The World War II era B-17 bomber "Aluminum Overcast"

The World War II era B-17 bomber “Aluminum Overcast”

The World War II era B-17 bomber "Aluminum Overcast"

The World War II era B-17 bomber “Aluminum Overcast”

Back at the honeysuckle bush from yesterday, I got a shot of a waxwing swallowing a berry, even though it isn’t as good as the photo from yesterday, I’m going to post it anyway.

Cedar waxwing swallowing a berry

Cedar waxwing swallowing a berry

And, to make up for the low quality of that shot, here’s one of the waxwings perched in the tree above.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Even though I have posted many photos of these of late, I’m posting yet another.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

The Sigma 150-500 mm lens may not be as sharp as my two shorter lenses, but here’s a few odds and ends to show that it’s no slouch either.

Pokeweed "fruit"

Pokeweed “fruit”

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Now comes my catch of the day! A series of photos of a red squirrel eating berries. The lighting couldn’t have been much worse, but anytime you get close to a red squirrel sitting still, it’s a keeper.

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Oops, dropped my berries!

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Ah, one left!

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Now then, to wrap this up, a female goldfinch. I see her nearly everyday while I take a break, she must have a nest in the bushes behind the bench I sit on.

Female American goldfinch AKA "The Jailbird"

Female American goldfinch AKA “The Jailbird”

I have noticed that the males tend to feed mostly on thistle seeds if they can find them, the females go for chicory seeds more than any others right now. I wonder if that has to do with feeding their young?

Since tomorrow is my birding trip with the Muskegon County Nature Club, and I have a lot to do to get ready for the trip, I’m going to wrap this one up here.

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

Blandford Nature Center

Located on the western outskirts of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Blandford Nature Center is an island of natural in a sea of suburban sprawl. They pack a lot into 143 acres of land, almost four miles of hiking trails, an animal rescue hospital, a working farm, and a historic village, to name of few of the things to see there. The main purpose of the Blandford Nature Center is education, and they hold many events targeted for children throughout the year. That’s not surprising, since the center is operated by the Grand Rapids public school system.

There’s far too much about the center for me to list here, so here’s a link to their website.

The trails are open dawn to dusk throughout the year, the admission fee is $3 for non-members, free to members. The hours for the other parts of the center are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 12 to 5pm, although not everything may be open at all times.

My day there was rather bittersweet. The trails through the woods are great, there’s abundant wildlife, but the animal rescue operation left me broken-hearted. To see the birds of prey and Bob the bobcat in their cages, with no real life, made me ponder the wisdom of keeping the animals alive.

I got there well before the staff arrived to open the buildings, which was my plan, since the trails are open all day. I had just a short walk through the woods before I came to the area where the injured animals are kept. The woods were quite pleasant.

Blandford Nature Center

Blandford Nature Center

Blandford Nature Center

Blandford Nature Center

Then, I met Sheldon.

Sheldon, the Cooper's hawk hawk

Sheldon, the Cooper’s hawk hawk

Sheldon was hit by a car in Lowell and brought in to Blandford Nature Center in 2002. He suffered severe damage to his right wing, which had to be amputated. He is also missing some talons and would not be able to hunt for food or escape predators in the wild, so he has become a permanent resident at Blandford.

Then, there was Ruby. I shot photos of her, but I’m not going to post them. Ruby can fly, but every time she does, she ends up crashing because she has no depth perception because she is blind in one eye.

She was hit by a car in Grand Rapids, which left her blind in her left eye.  Birds of prey need both eyes to have the necessary depth perception to hunt effectively.  Ruby would slowly starve to death if left to fend for herself in the wild.


Stan, the great horned owl

Stan, the great horned owl

Stan was found at the Grattan Racetrack in 1988 with a broken wing.  His wing fused in an awkward position during healing leaving him unable to fly to catch food and defend himself from predators in the wild.

Katherine the Great

Katherine the Great

Katherine the Great

Katherine the Great

Katherine the Great

Katherine was found on the Nature Center’s east loop trail in 1991 suffering from a fractured left wing.  The wing did not heal properly, leaving her unable to catch prey or escape predators. Great Horned Owls mate for life, and every once in a while Katherine’s mate from the wild will visit and bring her gifts in the form of small rodents.

Reading the stories of how the birds came to be at the center, and seeing them not being able to live a birds life made me very sad indeed.

But, saddest of all was watching Bob.

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Poor Bob did little more than pace his cage in a figure 8 pattern, pausing now and then to stare off into space with a vacant look in his eyes.

Bob was born in 2002 and purchased as an illegal pet whose owners had him neutered and de-clawed.  He was put out in their backyard and neighbors eventually complained.  He was relinquished from the family and taken to the Chattanooga Zoo in Tennessee. The zoo was looking to transfer him to an educational facility where he would have his own cage, and so he came to Blandford in 2006.  Since he is de-clawed and depends on  humans to feed him, Bob would not be able to survive in the wild.

Unfortunately, there were far too many others there as well, including a pair of kestrels, a merlin, and several other species of owls. I dutifully shot photos of all of them, but none of the rest turned out, probably because my heart just wasn’t into it. I couldn’t stop thinking that these magnificent birds of prey were destined to live out the rest of their life in a cage perched on a branch.

The rest of the day went much better once I got back on the trails.



Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I saw many birds other than the caged rescue birds, but only managed shots of two, here’s the first.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Gray-head coneflower

Gray-head coneflower


Wild leeks


Wild leeks



I found a hummingbird (Sphinx) moth feeding from some bee balm, and couldn’t resist shooting a lot of photos of it.

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

It had just flown away, when I looked up to find myself eye to eye with a real hummingbird, but it flew off when I spotted it. I tried stepping back into the brush and waiting for the hummer to return, but it never did.


Heal all

Female common grackle

Female common grackle

Female common grackle

Female common grackle

Groundhog or woodchuck

Groundhog or woodchuck



Red dragonfly

Red dragonfly

Purple coneflower

Purple coneflower

I had every intention of photographing the farm and the historic buildings, maybe next time. Most of the historic buildings are located on the edge of the woods with trees covering most of the buildings, so I think that I’ll wait until the leaves are off from the trees so that you can see the buildings.

I will be going back, it’s close to home, the woods and trails are very good, and there’s enough there to keep me occupied for the greater portion of a day. So, there’s no reason to overload this post. They are working to add more native wildflowers to the woods and fields, and I’ll bet that the place is great for spring birding, from all the birds I saw today. The only reason there aren’t more bird photos is because like everywhere else in Michigan this year, the leaves on all the plants are too thick to get good clear shots of birds.

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

My favorite nature quotes

I have already done a post of my favorite fishing quotes, and it is one of the most viewed posts that I have done. That isn’t why I am doing this one, these are quotes about the great outdoors and nature that I love. These quotes tell why I love the great outdoors the way that I do in a way that says it much better than I can.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” ~ John Lubbock

 “Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Be like a rock in the middle of a river, let all of the water flow around and past you.”~ Zen Saying

“Time Flowed Past Like The Water Of The River” ~ Allen Norcross (New Hampshire Garden Solutions)

“I think if you’re interested in really studying nature you have to do it over time to understand how and why things change.” ~ Allen Norcross (New Hampshire Garden Solutions)

“I was all alone on a morning so quiet I could hear myself think at Red Jack Lake, miles into the Hiawatha National Forest.  It seemed like the epitome of irreverence to make a sound.” ~ Kerry Mark Leibowitz (Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog)

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”~ John Muir

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”~ John Muir

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”~ John Muir

“In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world.”~ John Muir

“Going to the woods is going home.” ~ John Muir

“A man’s interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town.”~ Henry David Thoreau

“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”~ Henry David Thoreau

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”~ Henry David Thoreau

“Not till we are completely lost or turned around… do we begin to find ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right. Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The universe is wider than our views of it.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I have a room all to myself; it is nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them”~ Henry David Thoreau

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”~ Mahatma Ghandi

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”~ Mahatma Ghandi

“In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago we didn’t have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We’ve been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we’re gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.” ~ Michael Crichton

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” ~Ansel Adams

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed… We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.” ~ Wallace Stegner

“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others”~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wildlife and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.” ~ Aldo Leopold

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” ~ Aldo Leopold

“No matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all the salient facts about any one of them.”~ Aldo Leopold

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” ~ Albert Einstein

“No settled family or community has ever called its home place an “environment.” None has ever called its feeling for its home place “biocentric” or “anthropocentric.” None has ever thought of its connection to its home place as “ecological,” deep or shallow. The concepts and insights of the ecologists are of great usefulness in our predicament, and we can hardly escape the need to speak of “ecology” and “ecosystems.” But the terms themselves are culturally sterile. They come from the juiceless, abstract intellectuality of the universities which was invented to disconnect, displace, and disembody the mind. The real names of the environment are the names of rivers and river valleys; creeks, ridges, and mountains; towns and cities; lakes, woodlands, lanes roads, creatures, and people.” ~ Wendell Berry

“A crowd whose discontent has risen no higher than the level of slogans is only a crowd. But a crowd that understands the reasons for its discontent and knows the remedies is a vital community, and it will have to be reckoned with. I would rather go before the government with two people who have a competent understanding of an issue, and who therefore deserve a hearing, than with two thousand who are vaguely dissatisfied.
But even the most articulate public protest is not enough. We don’t live in the government or in institutions or in our public utterances and acts, and the environmental crisis has its roots in our lives. By the same token, environmental health will also be rooted in our lives. That is, I take it, simply a fact, and in the light of it we can see how superficial and foolish we would be to think that we could correct what is wrong merely by tinkering with the institutional machinery. The changes that are required are fundamental changes in the way we are living.” ~ Wendell Berry

“[T]his readiness to assume the guilt for the threats to our environment is deceptively reassuring: We like to be guilty since, if we are guilty, it all depends on us. We pull the strings of the catastrophe, so we can also save ourselves simply by changing our lives. What is really hard for us (at least in the West) to accept is that we are reduced to the role of a passive observer who sits and watches what our fate will be. To avoid this impotence, we engage in frantic, obsessive activities. We recycle old paper, we buy organic food, we install long-lasting light bulbs—whatever—just so we can be sure that we are doing something. We make our individual contribution like the soccer fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in the belief that this will somehow influence the game’s outcome.”  ~ Slovoj Zizek

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” ~ Chief Seattle

“We line up and make a lot of noise about big environmental problems like incinerators, waste dumps, acid rain, global warming and pollution. But we don’t understand that when we add up all the tiny environmental problems each of us creates, we end up with those big environmental dilemmas. Humans are content to blame someone else, like government or corporations, for the messes we create, and yet we each continue doing the same things, day in and day out, that have created the problems. Sure, corporations create pollution. If they do, don’t buy their products. If you have to buy their products (gasoline for example), keep it to a minimum. Sure, municipal waste incinerators pollute the air. Stop throwing trash away. Minimize your production of waste. Recycle. Buy food in bulk and avoid packaging waste. Simplify. Turn off your TV. Grow your own food. Make compost. Plant a garden. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you don’t, who will?”  ~ Joseph Jenkins

“A tree is alive, and thus it is always more than you can see. Roots to leaves, yes-those you can, in part, see. But it is more-it is the lichens and moss and ferns that grow on its bark, the life too small to see that lives among its roots, a community we know of, but do not think on. It is every fly and bee and beetle that uses it for shelter or food, every bird that nests in its branches. Every one an individual, and yet every one part of the tree, and the tree part of every one.” ~ Elizabeth Moon

“Environmentalists generally object to battery-powered devices and for good reason: batteries require mined minerals, employ manufacturing processes that leak toxins into local ecosystems and leave behind an even-worse trail of side effects upon disposal. Though when it comes to the largest mass-produced battery-powered gadget ever created—the electric car—environmentalists cannot jump from their seats fast enough to applaud it.” ~ Ozzie Zehner

“Man is a complex being: he makes deserts bloom – and lakes die.” ~ Gil Stern

“Trees are always a relief, after people.”~ David Mitchell

“The environment you save should be your own!” ~ Me

That’s it for now, thanks for stopping by!

The Drake’s Bay oyster farm

I am not going to reply to the comments on my last post just yet, instead, I am going to start this post off with a quote from Diane Feinstein, senior Senator from California.

“Accurate, objective science should guide environmental policy, and when science has acknowledged problems, it should never be used to make decisions. There is no guarantee that any given study is perfect, but we should all agree that decisions based on science we know to be flawed is a stark violation of the public trust.”

Senator Feinstein wrote that in an op-ed piece concerning the case of the Drake’s Bay oyster farm in the Point Reyes National Seashore. I am not going to go into great details on this case, I’m not sure how many people would believe what I had to say anyway, given what I posted yesterday.

Here’s a brief synopsis, the National Park Service, part of the Department of Interior, has chosen not to renew the lease for an oyster farm that has been in business since long before the Point Reyes National Seashore came into existence back in 1976. The feds have given the owners of the oyster farm 90 days to cease operations, including removing and destroying the existing “crop” of oysters presently growing in the bay. Thirty one workers will lose their jobs, 15 of the workers will also lose their homes, as they live in housing provided by the owner of the oyster farm.

This case has many interesting and informative aspects, such as the fact that the local chapter of the Sierra Club supports the oyster farm, saying that the farm is a perfect example of an environmentally friendly and sustainable way of producing food, while the people in the headquarters of the Sierra Club are demanding that the farm be shut down because of the adverse environmental impact the farm has.

Also interesting is what the National Academy of Sciences had to say about the scientific studies used by the Department of Interior as justification for shutting down the oyster farm, claiming the National Park Service was trying to get rid of the oyster farm by exaggerating its negative impacts on the environment. During the impasse, more than $1 million in taxpayer money was spent on environmental assessment studies, according to records.

To me, this case speaks volumes about bending science, as well as many other subjects that I’m not going to list at this time. I don’t think that any one would accuse Senator Feinstein of being a right-wing whack job, and she’s supporting the oyster farm, so I urge my readers to do a little research on this case on their own, it could be an eye-opening experience, that goes along the lines of what I posted yesterday about climate change.

To believe, or not believe,

Editor’s note: I began this post quite some time ago, and I have just gotten around to finishing it now. It is one of a series of posts that I plan to do on environmental issues in the near future. Sorry, no pretty photos in this one.

To believe, or not believe….

Shouldn’t even be the question. What I am talking about here is the theory of Global Warming, or specifically, anthropogenic global warming (AGW), that is, the theory that man’s burning of fossil fuels leads to increased emission of CO2 into the atmosphere and is causing the Earth’s climate to warm at such a rate that it threatens our survival.

This is in response to a long essay that was included in the Autumn 2011 newsletter from the Pigeon River Country Association, of which I am a member, written by R. W. Kropf, who is the editor of the newsletter. Once the newsletter is posted online, I will add a link to it so that you may read if you wish. Basically, Mr. Kropf makes the case that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is occurring, and what we should do to try to reverse it.

I for one am not convinced, but does that matter? Not really, and I’ll get to why later on, as well as why pushing a theory that I believe will prove to be incorrect may well do more harm than good as far as goals that I believe that Mr. Kropf and I share.

First, a little about science and myself. I am not a scientist in the strict sense of the word, although I had planned on becoming one and that was my goal in my short foray in the academic world. My problem was that I was interested in all the “ologies”, from archeology to zoology and everything in between. One thing I learned is that scientists continually claim that they have moved past their personal biases and are basing their scientific opinions on pure science. Truth is, that has never been the case and probably never will be. Science has always been driven by religious, political, and economics as much as scientific facts, and I see no change in that to this day.

One only has to go back to the early debate over what is now called the Big Bang Theory of the origins of our universe. When Georges Lemaître first proposed what would become the Big Bang theory, Fred Hoyle and other scientists argued against it, and later admitted that much of their opposition to the theory was due to their belief that if science accepted that there was a beginning to the universe, it would lend credence to the religious notion of God having created the universe. That was in the 1940’s, and anti-religious bigotry played a part in shaping scientific views then.

But scientists were correct when they argued for a ban on DDT, weren’t they? Yes they were. And scientists were correct when they argued for a ban on CFC’s to save us from the “hole in the ozone” weren’t they? The jury is still out on that one.

Despite the Montreal Protocol as amended several times, the largest holes in the ozone over Antarctica have been during the winters of 2006 and 2010. There is still much research being done on the causes of the hole in the ozone, and several theories advanced as to what is causing it, but for the most part,  those theories aren’t gaining any traction. For one thing the scientists who pushed CFC’s as the cause don’t want to admit that they may have made a mistake that cost consumers across the planet trillions of dollars.

That’s one of the reason the original Montreal Protocol has been quietly amended several times, to include variations of halogenated hydrocarbons not banned in the original document, scientists keep adding to the list of banned chemical compounds, hoping that eventually they get it correct.

I am not saying that banning CFC’s was wrong, the point I am trying to make is that when science moves before they have all the facts, mistakes are made.

So now we come to global warming, which may go down in history as one of the biggest scientific mistakes of all time, and Mr. Kropf’s essay. He begins by noting several species, including opossum, which were largely a southern species at the time when the first European settlers arrived in North America, have been expanding their range northward. The northward migration of many animals, including opossum and the northern cardinal were well documented, long before the first coal-fired power plant began belching smoke into the atmosphere, before man harnessed electricity, and long before the first automobile ever sputtered into life.

There are a number of reasons some species have been expanding their range to the north, one is that the “Little Ice Age” was ending, another is the wholesale changes in habitat that Europeans wrought on the land by clearing the forests, plowing the land, and planting agricultural plants where vast tracts of forest once stood.

The Little Ice Age was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period. NASA defines the Little Ice Age as a cold period between 1550 AD and 1850 AD and notes three particularly cold intervals: one beginning about 1650, another about 1770, and the last in 1850, each separated by intervals of slight warming. It should come as no surprise that some species of animals were pushed south during the Little Ice Age, and that when it ended, those species would begin to expand their range northward again.

It should also come as no surprise that when there are the widespread changes in habitat as there have been that the species living in those areas that went from dense old growth forests to open farm land would change.

To leave both the end of the Little Ice Age and the changes in habitat out of the equation as to why species are moving north is simply bad science, something that has plagued those supporting the AGW theory from day one.

Remember those first computer models used to “prove” global warming was taking place? They were the laughing-stock of the overall scientific community. The scientists who wrote those models went back to their offices, not to write the best computer models to model the climate, but to produce models that would be acceptable to the rest of the scientific world and still “prove” global warming was taking place. Having a predetermined outcome is simply bad science.

Remember when it was announced that the Arctic ice cap was going to melt and the rise in sea levels because of it was going to flood most of the major coastal cities around the world? More bad science, because if the Arctic ice cap melts, sea levels will actually drop due to the fact that ice displaces a larger volume than does liquid water.

The story has changed now, the new story is that when the glaciers melt, sea levels will rise, and cause the flooding. That’s still somewhat bad science, for they are estimating the total amount of water that is held in the glaciers, and adding that to the current sea levels. Not all the water that melts from the glaciers is going to end up in the oceans. A good deal of it will be held in the plant life that takes root as the glaciers retreat. Some of the water will be held in lakes that form in the depressions left behind from the glaciers. Some of that water will filter down through the earth to underground aquifers. In the end, very little of the water from melting glaciers will end up in the oceans.

Relying on bad science to try to prove a theory leaves those trying to prove the theory grasping at straws. For example, headlines across the world trumpeted that long time skeptic of the global warming theory, Richard Muller, had compleated a study showing global warming was indeed taking place. The supporters of the AGW theory are trying to use this as proof of the theory, when all the study shows is that average temperatures around the world have increased since the 1950’s. The study does not address the causes of the warming, it only helps to verify that warming has been taking place for some reason.

The warming seen since the 1950’s is just as easy to attribute to the increase in solar activity that has coincided with the warming. There is far more correlation between solar activity and temperatures than there is between greenhouse gases and temperature.

Supporters of the AGW theory are also pointing to Muller’s study as validating the data used in the infamous Climategate scandal. It may validate the data, but it doesn’t validate manipulating the data to arrive at a predetermined outcome, which is what Climategate is really all about. That’s really bad science.

All the bad science used to try to convince the public that the AGW theory is correct makes it easy to poke holes in the theory. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the debate over the AGW theory and lose sight of what’s really important, and that is doing the right thing for the environment.

Who cares about the amount of CO2 coming out of the smokestack of a coal-fired power plant when that same smokestack is spewing tons of arsenic, mercury, and other toxic substances into our atmosphere?

Let’s face it, nothing that comes out of the smokestack of a power plant, whether coal-fired, or natural gas-fired, is good for us to breathe, or good for the environment. Nothing that comes out of the exhaust of an internal combustion engine is good for us to breathe, or good for the environment. Mining coal isn’t environmentally friendly, neither is drilling for oil or natural gas.

That’s why I said that Mr. Kropf and I share the same goals, we both want clean air to breathe, clear, free-flowing rivers, clean water to drink, our forests protected, and so many other things, yet we get caught up in the debate over AGW.

The biggest problem that I have had with the global warming theory is that to many of the public, it is another example of radical environmentalists sounding like Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling. Recent public opinion polls show that the majority of the public doesn’t believe that man is responsible for the warming that has taken place, if they believe that there has been any warming at all.

So while we could be taking steps that would actually benefit our environment, based on proven science, we waste time, effort, and resources debating whether or not climate change is the result of man’s burning of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, I believe that the leaders of “Big Environment” have many agendas other than doing what’s best for the environment, something I will explain in future posts.

What I would like to see happen is that the debate over climate change be sent back to the scientists to debate for the time being, and the rest of us focus on what we can all agree on, and here’s a few points I think that almost every one can agree on.

  1. Drilling for oil or natural gas does harm to the environment
  2. There is no such thing as “clean coal”, nor any way to extract coal from the ground that doesn’t do some of the most severe damage to the environment of all the things man does.
  3. We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, not only to preserve the environment, but because they are finite resources that will not last forever.
  4. We need to take actions to reduce our reliance of fossil fuels that are not only as environmentally friendly as possible, but also taking into account the effects those actions will have on the common man, and especially the poor.
  5. We need to set political agendas aside, and take some common sense actions that do actually preserve our environment.
  6. We need to develop a new idea, “environmental efficiency”, and by that, I mean taking into account the entire environmental impact a process has, and whether it is a good trade off when compared to what that process is intended to replace.

So that’s it for this one, I hope to follow it up shortly, along with getting back to some photos, good or otherwise. Thanks for stopping by!

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

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

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

Trimming the flowers off from a flowering bush

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahhh, the sweet smell of rotting garbage!

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

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

…when they could be seeing this….

Where the nasty wildflowers used to grow

…or this?

Where those nasty wildflowers used to grow

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

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

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

My Week…Sproing!


I am going to start with my oddball thought of the day, are there right-winged birds and left-winged birds? Most humans are right-handed, a few are left-handed, and then there are a few who are ambidextrous, are birds the same way? The reason that popped into my head is from having watched a number of raptors taking off recently. I notice that they tend to dip one shoulder as they take off, and they don’t fly exactly in a straight line. By that, I mean if you were to draw a line from their tail to their beak and extend that out, they fly at a slight angle to that. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Sharp shinned hawk taking off

I think you can see quite clearly in that photo what I am talking about. I notice that when I watch raptors take off, but not other birds. I think that’s because raptors tend to leave their legs dandling as they take off, now I am going to have to start watching other species and see if they do the same thing. Something else for me to ponder as I wander.

In weather news, three counties just north of here have declared emergencies due to the heavy snow, close to 24 inches in places, glad that one missed!

Still more news, the plans by the Michigan DNR to reduce the mute swan population has some people up in arms, on both sides of the issue. The animal rights people are opposed, and many lakeshore property owners want the DNR to go after the Canadian geese as well. I am somewhat ticked off by a recent development in that story. The DNR’s original plan was to donate the meat from the swans to soup kitchens, food pantries, and homeless shelters to help feed the poor, a good idea, I thought. But, the department of health stepped in and put an end to that plan because the department of health hasn’t studied swan meat to see if it is contaminated by what the swans have been feeding on.

How about a little common sense here please? Even if the DNR were to kill off every swan in Michigan at this time and donate the meat to feed the poor, the poor would only get one or two meals from all that meat, it wouldn’t kill any one or lead to long-term health problems, even if the swans had been feeding in contaminated areas. But, common sense doesn’t cost millions of dollars to find out that eating one or two, maybe even three meals containing swan meat isn’t going to do irreparable harm to any one.

I won’t even go into all the uniformed comments being made on the subject, I’ll hope that the plan works, and the trumpeter swan and loon populations can make a come back.

Now for my walk today. It sure sounded like spring out there, the birds were really singing today! It was the coldest day in a week as far as the actual temperature reading, but it felt like one of the warmest since there was almost no wind for a change. It was a typical Michigan winter nice day, clouds almost blocking the sun, and snow falling on and off, more on than off.

I didn’t take many photos, it would have been a good day for photography if I could have found birds low enough to the ground or close enough to make photographing them worthwhile. What I did shoot aren’t all that great. I did get this one of the pair of ring-necked ducks in the long back pond.

Ring-necked ducks

With the cold snap over-night, the ponds are nearly frozen over again, and the only open water always seemed to be on the parts of the ponds that I can’t get to. So of course that’s where all the waterfowl were today. I’m hoping the ring-necks stick around and I can get a really good photo of them. If they want, they can spend the summer here and raise a brood if they wish.

I guess the big story today was the snow. I don’t know why, but it was really quite annoying today for some reason. I had to wipe the moisture from it melting on my face every few minutes, and it was sticking in my eyelashes all the time also.

I thought about walking over to the chain of lakes, but the best of them would have been frozen over like the ponds here were, and the ones that would have had open water are the ones where photography is almost impossible due to the size of the lakes, and the way the sun hits them.

As it was, I took my time doing one long lap around here, enjoying the bird’s songs and the lack of wind. It’s supposed to get down into the teens tonight, and remain chilly tomorrow, then the warm-up is forecast to begin. I hope so, I am ready for spring, as if you all haven’t heard that too many times already.


After a very cold early March night, I woke up to hear the furnace running this morning. That’s unusual, I turn the thermostat down so low at night that the heat from the apartments below me is normally enough so that my furnace doesn’t run until I turn the thermostat up for the day. Brrr.

I have been fooling around inside, waiting for the snow flurries to end, and for it to warm up a little outside. That strategy seems to be working, I can see blue sky for the first time in nearly a week, the turkeys out feeding, and the fox squirrels playing in the tree tops. Time for a walk!

Ok, it is official, this place has gone to the critters! I went for my walk today and shot over 250 pictures, I haven’t even had time to view them all yet. Monday is the day I visit my mother in the nursing home, so I have less time to play.

Then, when I got home tonight, my Internet access is out, so I am typing this to be
transferred later.

First up, not far from the door to my apartment, there was a male cardinal singing towards the top of a spruce tree, but he was mostly hidden.

Male northern cardinal

I told him I would try to make him an international internet star if he would pose for me, he said he had to think about it for a while. So, while he was mulling over my offer, I shot this bald eagle that was passing through.

Bald eagle in flight

I would have liked to have gotten a better pic of the eagle, but the way things are going around here, I’m going to wake up some morning and find one perched on the balcony. 😉

The cardinal saw that, and did come over to pose for me.

Male northern cardinal

A chickadee was trying to tell the cardinal that the spruce tree was already spoken for, by him.

Black capped chickadee

A few steps later, one of the sharpies flew over.

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

But, it didn’t bother the mallards sleeping in the front pond.

Sleeping mallards

But all those raptors soaring over made all the fox squirrels nervous, I couldn’t get close to any of them. That’s OK, plenty of other wildlife to shoot. There were lots of herring gulls as always.

Herring gull in flight

And Canadian geese.

Canadian goose

The ring-neck ducks are still here.

Male ring-necked duck

The swans have returned.

Mute swans

While I was photographing them, a couple of turkeys ran over to have their picture taken.


Those two had just left, when three more showed up.

More turkeys

Now is this crazy or what? I’m in an apartment complex, and I need a wide-angle lens to shoot all the wildlife I can see at one time. Here we have turkeys, geese, swans, mallards, and you can’t see the ring-necked ducks off to the right. Is it any wonder that I am going nuts trying to photograph everything going on around here?

An abundance of wildlife

The mallards were busy making more mallards.

Mating mallards kissing

That got the gander all worked up, he thought that there should be more geese being made.

Goose mating rituals

But the mute swans apparently don’t like other birds mating, because the cob came swimming towards the geese, which shut them up.

Mute swan

A cardinal perched in the tree above me to begin singing.

Male northern cardinal

The geese had gone quiet, so the cob harassed the mallards for a while for starting it all in the first place.

Mute swans harassing mallards

The ring-necks came over to see what all the fuss was about.

A pair of ring-necked ducks

I knew it was getting late and I didn’t have much time, so I left the Peyton Place pond to finish my walk. I was nearly done when I spotted another turkey off in the woods, I was standing there debating if I should get the camera out to shoot a picture. I should have, because about that time, a fox squirrel fell, or jumped out of the tree the turkeys were under, and came crashing to the ground. I was debating whether to shoot a photo of the squirrel that had just landed, when one of the sharpies came over to see what was making all the noise.

Sharp shinned hawk

Then she posed for a few portraits.

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

After she showed up, it occurred to me that the squirrel may have taken the express elevator down to escape the hawk, I don’t know. Here’s the turkey in the distance, the squirrel hit the brushpile in the foreground.

Woods and turkey

By that time the snow had returned, the lake effect type of snow, but it was cold out there! I had spent so much time taking photos that my fingers were numb. I’m sure looking for the warm-up that is supposed to begin on Tuesday! February went into the record books as warmer than normal, but it was more winter-like the last two weeks of the month than what it had been all winter long up until then. March is just getting started, but it has been cold and windy just like the end of February was so far.

On to Tuesday.


I haven’t finished the Monday entry yet, no Internet last night has me way behind. I have been watching the red-tailed hawks gathering nest material this morning, along with the turkeys and squirrels doing their usual morning routines. The weather is great! It is already warmer than it ever got yesterday, one of the coldest days in some time.

I am almost afraid to walk out the door, with this weather, I may end up with over 300 photos today.

Well, that didn’t happen. I did take nearly 100 pictures, and deleted a good deal of them. I was trying to capture the ripples in some thin ice on the front pond for the weekly photo challenge, but none of them came out the way I wanted.

The swans and ring-necked ducks were gone, the geese and mallards were dozing for the most part. I did shoot this one of a male mallard in my quest for the perfect photo of every species around here, this one is darned close.

Male mallard

I shot a few of the tweety birds.

Male downy woodpecker

White breasted nuthatch

Black capped chickadee

The weather was grand, but the smaller birds seemed to all be in motion, either feeding, defending their territory’s, in the process of nest building, or blowing around in the wind. Yeah, the wind was back, but this time it is a warm southerly breeze blowing warm air into the area. So warm that I found the first bee of spring!

First bee of spring

There was a flock of sandhill cranes to the north of here, circling and calling as the flock formed, I presume to head farther north. It is so cool to hear what I describe as their warbling croaking as they call out to each other. They were too far away for anything other than a terrible photo, maybe next time they will be closer.

For my bad action shot of the day, a robin in flight.

American robin in flight

And speaking of robins, this portrait of a robin.

American robin

Tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer, with a high near 60 degrees, before the rain moves in for the afternoon, I hope they are right!

Since I haven’t finished yesterday’s entry, I’m going to call this one done, finish yesterday, and look forward to Wednesday.


Spring is here! Just as if some one had flipped a switch. The high temperature yesterday was twice as warm as on Monday, and the warm weather is predicted to hang around for the foreseeable future. The wind is roaring out of the south today, blowing the warm air in, but there’ll be no wind chill today!

One thing I forgot about for yesterday’s entry, one of the hawks made another McMallard Meal here. I found another, much larger pile of duck feathers scattered around the same area as before. I think that the hawk uses that same tree whenever it makes a kill in the area. Still, there were ducks sleeping in the creek right where the hawk likes to hunt. It is supposed to cloud up later in the day, ahead of rain tonight, so I’m getting out there now.

What a great day! Maybe not as far as photography, but spring has sprung, and the critters and I were loving it. I actually took quite a few photos, but none of them are really any better than what I have already posted here, so I’m not going to bother with them. I started off shooting what would have been a very good photo of a nuthatch, but there was a twig full of buds right behind the nuthatch’s head, making it look like the nuthatch had some odd growth growing out of its head, it was that kind of day. I was either too far away, or the light was wrong for the best shots. The wind and the clouds didn’t make things any easier. I got close to a goldfinch singing, but it was bouncing around so much in the wind, and branches blowing in front of it, that the photos aren’t that good.

The new swamp is full of mallards, along with a few geese. The back pond still has me puzzled, just the same pair of mallards that have been there for weeks.That pond has the least human activity around it, it is fenced off, and normally it is where I have seen the most waterfowl and wading birds, this spring, nothing. I’ve looked for reasons why, but whatever it is, I can’t tell.

The two ponds with the most waterfowl this spring have been the center and long back pond, and those are the two with the most human activity around them. The swans are still here, the ring-necked ducks are gone, I wonder if those two things are connected? The interactions between the species of waterfowl is quite interesting. The geese and the mute swans seem to get along fine one day, not so fine on the next. Today one swan was laying on shore, surrounded by mallards and geese, the cob was feeding in the pond, also surrounded by mallards and geese. The swans only seem to react when there is mating activity occurring between the other species. Do mute swans understand that mating activity by other waterfowl leads to the other species nesting?

The mute swans tolerate the mallards and geese with in just a few feet of them, until the ducks mate or the geese begin their mating honking, then the swans become aggressive. Interesting, very interesting.

The turkeys are doing their typical turkey dances everyday now, and the flocks of hen turkeys are starting to break up as they prepare to nest.

I saw the red-tailed hawks, one flew close and low, but with the heavy clouds, the photos are bad. They were hunting today, yesterday I watched them gathering materials for a nest. I couldn’t see where they went, but I’ll keep an eye out for that.

It is so great to hear birds singing again! It won’t be long, and there will be brightly colored flowers to go along with the brightly colored birds!

It’s supposed to rain this evening, and it sure looks like it could start any time now. Tomorrow is supposed to be more seasonable in temperature, with the rain ending early. The first spring rain! Love it!


The winds and rains came last night, later than predicted, and the gloomy skies are lingering today. I stayed up late last night to process and upload two videos I shot of the turkey dance to my Facebook page, and as a result, I overslept this morning. It is almost noon, and I’m still sitting here.

I said the turkey flocks are breaking up, wrong, they all came together again for some reason. A huge flock of close to fifty have been feeding in the woodlot across from me this morning as I have been trying to wake up.

The news item for today, the Michigan DNR was doing a controlled burn in Saugatuck State Park the day before yesterday, and with the high winds yesterday, coals from the controlled burn started an uncontrolled burn. Somewhere between 30 and 40 acres burned, not really any big deal, but who does a controlled burn when winds are predicted to exceed 50 MPH? The Michigan DNR does, sometimes I wonder about them.

Overall, every one in Michigan should be proud of the job the DNR does here, but there are too many stories like this that leaves you shaking your head wondering what were they thinking?

Time to get moving!

The actual air temperature was 30 degrees colder than yesterday, and it felt like even more than that. There was still a stiff breeze blowing out of the west that seemed to be putting a damper on much of the bird activity around here. I also noticed that a large dead tree to the west of my apartment has fallen sometime this week in all the wind we’ve been having. Why I mention it is because it was one of the red-tailed hawk’s favorite places to perch while scouting for food. Over the winter, a smaller dead tree that was used by many species of male birds as a spot to sing from fell over as well. Now I will have to locate the trees the birds are using as replacements.

There were a few birds singing, not many, and I don’t think that I heard a single cardinal, not too surprising given the weather today. I did see a few male cardinals chasing each other around near the main creek that flows through here. By the way, I tried looking up the creek on my GPS mapping software, and it doesn’t even show up. I can tell from the topography of the area that the creek is a tributary of Buck Creek, which in turn flows into the Grand River.

I saw the male sharpie hunting along the creek, I could tell it was the male because he’s smaller than the female, and he hunts from treetops, while she hunts much closer to the ground.

I spent way too much time at the long back pond watching the mute swans and geese interacting.

Mute swans and Canadian goose

When I first popped my head around the corner to look out over the pond, I could tell that the geese wanted to start honking. They did everything but honk, even opening their bills along with shaking their heads and the rest of the actions they take to signal danger. Then it dawned on me, that while the swans have been here, none of the geese in any of the ponds are as vocal as they normally are. Hmmm. You wouldn’t think that the presence of swans in one pond would affect the actions of geese in another pond, but it seems to. The mallards also act differently now that the larger waterfowl are around. They seem much more relaxed and not always on high alert as they were over the winter. It’s as if they depend on the geese and swans to warn them of danger, or it could be that they are all worn out from all the mating they are doing. For the last week or so, it seems the mallards are either mating or sleeping. 😉

The back pond still has me puzzled, just a lone pair of mallards there. I saw one heron at night in the front pond, and a flock of sandhill cranes in the distance to the north, but we’ve had no wading birds visit any of the ponds from what I can tell. The back pond has always been a stop over point for egrets, cranes, and herons in the past, I wonder if the swans being in the area has something to do with the fact that the wading birds aren’t stopping?

Back to the swans and geese. One goose seemed to be extremely curious about what the swans were finding to eat under water. It would swim over and watch the swans feeding until it was nearly touching a swan, then the swans would half heartedly chase the goose off, as you can see in the photo above, then the process would repeat. That made me extremely curious as to why the goose would be so interested in what the swans were feeding on, since geese feed almost exclusively on land.

So many questions to be answered, and so little time. I’m way behind on replying to the comments people have been making, sorry about that. I hope to catch up tonight.

Tomorrow is predicted to be cold again, that I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t for the wind. Maybe the sun will be out and it will feel warmer, I hope so. I’m tired of the wind more than the cold. Nearly everyday for the last two weeks at some point in the day I have been able to hear the wind roaring outside. That’s it for today, on to Friday.


Great! Where did this snow come from? I’ll bet it was blown in here, carried on the 40 MPH wind gusts last night. The day before yesterday, we had wind gusts recorded at close to 60 MPH, when is this wind ever going to calm down?

You also have to love the local meteorologists who look out the window, see that it’s snowing, then update the forecast to include the chance of snow. 🙂

Oh well, as I was eating breakfast, a fox squirrel dropped by my balcony to remind me it was Friday, and time to toss out the stale bread and potato chip crumbs from this week. The turkeys are there under the balcony as they often are, and the sun is making a rare appearance, so I guess it is time to quit complaining about the wind and weather and get out there to join them.

I hate to do this, but I think I will have to put my action shots from today in a stand alone post. It was that kind of day today! It started out well, I had barely gotten out the door when one of the red-tailed hawks flew past me.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

The pair of them were in sight for a good deal of the time today, I didn’t get any great shots, not that I didn’t try. 😉

I know I am repeating myself, but the back pond still is puzzling me, just the one pair of mallards there. I found a spot out of the wind, and in the sun, and stood there for some time, thinking about all the photos I have taken of the waterfowl and wading birds around that pond, and for the life of me, I can’t see what has changed that would make it so uninviting to them now. Maybe it’s a spring thing, but I don’t think so.

The swans were gone from the long back pond today, of course I have no way of knowing if that’s temporary or not. But I did perform a little experiment today with the swans gone. Normally I try not bother the wildlife, today, I pushed the geese to see if I could get them to honk with the swans gone. Not really, they had been feeding in the grass, and I followed them all the way to the water’s edge, and all I got were a few muted honks, nothing like I would have expected before the swans showed up. If you’ve been around geese, you know how vocal they are, that’s one of the complaints people have about them. That and the way they crap all over the place.

What does that say about us as a species, there are people who would like to see the geese eradicated simply because they are too lazy to look down and step around the goose crap. Look out, I am going to repeat myself again.

Canadian geese

Thirty years ago, that would have been considered a special photo here in lower Michigan, there weren’t many geese left. There was even some concern that they would go extinct. Now, after banning DDT, better controls on hunting, and habitat improvement, the geese are returning to their rightful home. That’s correct, their rightful home! They have just as much right to live here as any of us humans do, and if you can’t be bothered to avoid stepping in goose crap, then maybe you are the one who should be relocated! You know, there are times that I think it would be a great idea if the animals could get together and decide on how best to control the human “problem” rather than the other way around, with humans deciding on how to control the animal “problem”. That may not be such a great idea though, the critters may vote to eliminate me, since I’m the one chasing them around with a camera. 😉

Back to my walk, I didn’t push the geese in the center pond as hard as I did the ones in the long back pond, but I was close enough and they were alerted enough that I would have expected some honking. I shot a large number of photos of the mallards chasing each other around the ponds, and got some of the very best mallard in flight photos I have ever taken, which is why I’ll put them in their own post.

I found this fox squirrel thinking it was hiding from me.

Fox squirrel hiding

And a male house finch singing.

Male house finch

He must have been singing the right notes!

Male and female house finches

He was joined by a female which prompted him to ask for a little privacy…

Male and female house finches

So I obliged and continued on my way. I spotted a turkey vulture, and shot this bad shot of it, for a reason.

Turkey vulture in flight

It doesn’t show up well in that photo, I’m going to have to do better. But, if you remember last week’s installment, a young eagle flew over and I pointed out that I could tell it was an eagle by the way its wings were flat across the top of the eagle’s body. I noted then, and I snapped this photo, to show how the wings of turkey vultures always start up from their body, then level off. It’s the way to identify between the two species at a distance.

I shot this one of a fox squirrel practicing its hand stands out in the street.

Fox squirrel playing in the street

And, I played peek-a-boo with a few turkeys.

Turkey playing peek-a-boo

There are times when I think that they are actually playing with me and that they enjoy the game, as long as I don’t get too close to them.

I shot a few more of the red-tailed hawks that I was going to throw in, but they’re not that special. So, I think that wraps up the day. Tomorrow is predicted to be great, we’ll have to see what it is really like, maybe more snow.


I am determined to get an early start at least one day this weekend, dawn would be great, but that will have to be tomorrow. It should work well with the change to daylight saving time this weekend.

The news item of the day, the State of Michigan is going to start requiring a Recreational Passport for users of state forest campgrounds, trails, and other facilities with parking areas. I have no problem with that, in fact, I have even suggested that as a way for the state to generate revenue to maintain those facilities. I hope that they do eventually lower the per night fee for camping in a state forest campground, $15 a night is too steep for the rustic campgrounds that I generally use.

I got in a hurry and rushed right out there this morning, that wasn’t a wise thing to do, although it worked out in the end. It was cold, and as if I haven’t whined about the wind enough lately, it was very windy again today. Another high wind advisory posted, gusts to 35 MPH. A couple of times I let the hood from my parka blow up around my neck to keep the wind from blowing down my back. When I started out, I thought that the flower buds in the maple trees looked much larger than they have, I even tried taking a photo, which didn’t turn out since every branch in the woods was dancing around in the wind.

I did take a few photos for the weekly photo challenge, which I will work on shortly, but other than some same old same old red-tailed hawks soaring, I wasn’t getting many photos, there wasn’t much to shoot. The swans were gone, just a few mallards in the ponds, with a few geese as well. Even the tweety birds seemed to be hiding out.

By the time I got to the front of the complex, it was beginning to feel a lot nicer out there, even with the wind. My gut feeling all morning was that I should walk down to the chain of lakes to see if any wading birds were hanging around there. I usually go with my gut feelings, so down the road I went. There were very few birds other than herring gulls there. The swans were in the smallest of the feeder ponds that feed into the lakes, along with a pair of geese, a few mallards, and a pair of coots.

American coot

I did hear and see a flock of sandhill cranes off in the distance again, no photos though. By the time I walked back to the apartment complex, it was feeling really nice, that wind was blowing in some much warmer air. It felt like a much better day to be out enjoying it than sitting inside blogging about it, the wind had even died down a little.

As I turned the corner towards my apartment, I looked up to see that the maple buds had opened since I had begun my walk!

Maple flowers opening

Best I could do in the wind, sorry. It was such a nice day, I decided to do another lap, after a short break. I also changed my boots from the Red Wings to the New Balance to save some wear and tear on my legs. The Red Wings are starting to get broken in, I can even walk quietly in them now, but they still weigh a ton, each! As I was lacing up my boots, I looked out my window to see one of the red-tailed hawks fly past just over the tree tops, so I knew I had to go for another lap. I had just started when I got this photo.

Black capped chickadee

And this one of its buddy, the nuthatch.

White breasted nuthatch

I stopped at the center pond and took a slew of pictures of the mallards being mallards, they will be in a post of their own. I also saw either a gull attacking a red-tailed hawk, or the other way around, I’m not sure.

Gull and hawk

Hawk and gull

I think that a couple of the gulls were going to harass the hawk, and one of them got itself into a bad position as far as where it was relative to the hawk, and that the hawk let the gull know that it didn’t like being harassed.

I was also noticing that the buds on the poplar trees were opening!

Poplar buds opening

They had been closed during my first lap, it looked as if they were popping like slow motion popcorn. Spring was springing right before my eyes! Hence the title of this weeks entry, sproing!

Out front I shot a few of this muskrat. It was digging roots and tubers out of the mud, then taking them to the creek to wash them off and eat them.



What an amazing day it turned out to be after such a cold start to the day! Being out there and seeing the tree buds opening, how cool is that? What a difference a short time made, from when I began in the first place until after I finished the first lap and a break, like a completely different day.

I know I am probably forgetting many things from today, I was too busy enjoying the second half of the day to do much thinking about it. So ends another week, I still haven’t decided what I am going to do tomorrow, other than I am going to try to be out there extra early. That may not have been the best thing today, but it is going to stay much warmer tonight, and I am missing going for a walk at dawn, so I am going to give it a shot.

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

Where do I start today?

When I started this blog it was never my intention to post daily, or even twice on some days, but I have been very fortunate the last couple of weeks in that I have managed to get what I think are some pretty good photos. Maybe not technically great, but if not, photos that tell a story. I think that my good fortune has continued, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. I don’t want to post so often that people dread seeing an announcement that I have posted yet another worthless post. I’ve stopped following some blogs because the authors seemed intent on posting multiple times per day, and didn’t really have much content to their posts. I don’t want this to be one of those.

I simply do not have the time to keep up that kind of pace, I need to slow down a little, or I won’t have any time left to be out there taking pictures. 😉 For a while I stopped replying to every comment in an attempt to save time, but that’s not fair to the people who take the time to leave a comment, so I am back to replying to comments, as I should. I guess I didn’t really understand this thing called the blogosphere when I started this blog. I had no idea that there were as many talented people out there, as writers, or photographers, or both. I haven’t even had time lately to give a shout out to some of the really good blogs that I have found, or add links to them here, and I need to do that, but don’t have time right now.

One of the things that has left me lacking in time for my blog has been getting all the forms filled out and copies of documents gathered to continue my mother’s Medicaid insurance, I have completed that, and sent everything in, now it’s time for the waiting game to see if I did everything correctly. With that done, hopefully I’ll have some more time for other things.

So what I am working towards in my long-winded way is this, I don’t have the time to comply with the requirements for the Versatile Blogger Award, so I’m not going to accept it. It isn’t just a matter of time, most of the blogs that I follow have already either won the award, or have been nominated for it, so I would have a hard time coming up with 15 more blogs to nominate. Besides, it means more to me that some one thought this blog was worthy of the award than adding another widget to my blog to display the award does, so I hope you aren’t offended by this Sheila. Thank you for nominating my blog for the award.

I would like to have enough time to do other than photo posts as well. I try to post at least a few serious posts from time to time, based on news articles I have read, either good news, or not so good news. I haven’t had time for that lately.

For example, there was recently a story on Yahoo News about hybrid sharks near Australia. Here’s a link to the story, I don’t know how long it will work, Yahoo is notorious for pulling down news stories after a short time. The first thing that hit me was that the interbreeding of the two species of sharks was due to climate change according to the story. At the risk of alienating a few of the readers of my blog, I don’t believe that man is responsible for climate change, and I will explain why in a future post. But, the gist of the story is this. Two species of sharks, the Australian black-tipped and the common black-tipped, were both swimming around in the ocean, minding their own business when both species noticed minute changes in the temperatures of the ocean currents. Both species concluded that this was due to climate change caused by man, and that they had to do something about it. So, the two species got together and decided that interbreeding between the two of them to produce a hybrid better able to cope with cooler ocean temperatures would be just the thing to help them survive. I guess those darn sharks weren’t so smart after all, I mean, they could detect that man was responsible for climate change, and take the initiative to produce a new species, but the new species is better adapted to cooler temperatures. If they were really smart, it would seem to me that they would produce a hybrid better able to survive the predicted increases in ocean temperatures.

What ticks me off about the story isn’t that it supports the idea than man is responsible for climate change, I have come to expect that. Stories that support that theory are the only ones that will ever make it into the mainstream media. The only times you will see a story about some one who disagrees with the theory of man induced climate change is when they convert from a doubter to a supporter, or when the media is attempting to destroy the reputation of a scientist who doesn’t believe the theory, because they once got a discount on their gas at an Exxon station, and therefore are in the pocket of Big Oil.

No, what burns my butt about this story, and many other science related stories of late, is this, that the interbreeding between the two species of sharks was a conscious decision on their part, or at least that’s the way it is written. It’s bad enough when scientists ascribe human traits to living things, but I have seen stories written where events involving inanimate objects supposedly took place because the inanimate objects “decided” that it was the correct course of action to take. I’m sorry, but rocks, volcanos, and continents do not think, they do not do the things they do because they made a conscious decision to do something.

It took the story about the sharks to make me realize that it is only some scientists who do that, and they are the ones that the media will report on. Real science is boring to the average brain-dead reporter and their almost equally as brain-dead editors. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but I have had a few run ins with reporters, and none of them I have met thinks about anything other than their appearance, and how they can get a job in a larger market. To get a job in a larger market requires them to file stories that conform to the correct templates, or the reporter will be stuck in small market limbo for life.

If a scientist expects to get written up in the mainstream media, they too must conform to the current template in place, or the story won’t get published or broadcast.

For the record, I do not watch Fox News, that would require me to turn on my TV, which I refuse to do. I do not listen to Rush “The Lush” Limbaugh either, I don’t need some one telling me what to think. I am not a scientist, only because I couldn’t decide on which “ology” I wanted to go into, but I did win the science bee 5 of 6 times back in school. The year I didn’t win, it was because I assumed what a question was going to be before the question was finished, and I answered incorrectly because I was in too much of a hurry, not because I didn’t know the correct answer.

I do try to keep up on scientific discoveries, but it is getting harder all the time. Part of it is that scientists have to compete for funding, so they try to generate buzz about their research, and often times overstate their findings in order to generate that buzz.

OK, my take on the sharks, then we’ll get to the photos. Both species of sharks are fished for heavily, as the main ingredient for shark fin soup. With the numbers of both species diminished, they are having a harder time finding members of their own species to mate with, and the interbreeding between the species is a result of that, which wasn’t really mentioned in the news article at all. This probably isn’t the first time that such interbreeding has taken place, it is the first time it has been documented, there is a difference.

The photos, where do I start? I guess with this one, of a huge flock of herring gulls circling overhead, nothing special, except for the huge number of gulls I managed to get in the frame.

Herring gulls circling overhead

Some of the gulls dropped down lower, and I shot a few photos of them, but nothing as good as in my earlier post, so I won’t bore you with any more of them.

Stopping at one of the ponds here, I saw a small flock of geese, took a quick shot or three, then started walking away from the geese. About that time, large numbers of geese from several of the ponds in the area all began honking at one time, including the small flock near me. I turned around and saw one goose with its mouth open as it honked, and that gave me the idea to try to capture a photo of a goose with its mouth open. If you know geese, you may say it is harder to catch one with its mouth closed, but I took it as a challenge to get photos for a reason.

It all has to do with timing, learning the delay between when my mind says shoot, and the shutter actually goes. It is something I hold over from my days as a marksman, learning to “call you shots”. You may think that when target shooting, you put the crosshairs on the center of the bullseye and pull the trigger, well, not quite. That’s the ideal, but we humans are full of all sorts of movements within our bodies that we are not aware of until we try shooting, either a gun or a photo. We wouldn’t need tripods if we were as rock steady as we think we are. So when target shooting, you try to keep the crosshairs centered as you squeeze the trigger, but as to when the gun actually goes off, that should be somewhat of a surprise every time. “Calling your shot” means remembering the sight picture at the exact moment when the gun did go off. I find the same thing holds for photography, that between the time my mind says shoot, as in press the shutter release, and the time the camera actually captures the scene, there is enough of a delay so that the scene may change during that small amount of time. That delay is most noticeable when shooting moving subjects, especially small, quick subjects, like chickadees for example. I’ll have a better example of that later on, but I think that any one who has tried to catch small birds in photos has had a time when they pressed the shutter, thinking the bird was sitting there, only to find that the photo shows an empty branch where the bird was.

Anyway, the goose photos.

Canadian goose honking

Canadian goose honking

The other thing I stuck around for was that with all the geese in the area honking to one another, I knew something was going to happen, and it did. The small flock I was photographing began running for take off speed..

Canadian goose running for take off

…and take off they did.

Canadian goose taking off

Canadian goose in flight

Canadian goose in flight

A double winner! Goose in flight with its mouth open. 😉

Canadian goose in flight

That flock joined a larger flock, which continued to grow in size as they circled the area, all the small flocks at each pond joined to form one huge one.

Canadian geese in flight

I shot quite a few of the geese in flight, but I’ll only post a couple more, I still can’t get a really good one of them overhead.

Canadian goose in flight

Canadian goose in flight

My next stop was one of the creeks here, they tend to be hot spots for good photos, like the ones of the cardinal bathing I posted not long ago. While I was walking up to the creek, I could see a flock of turkeys off in the distance having a row, but they were too far away, and there were too many trees between us for a good shot. Two of them took off running towards me, with four others chasing, the two being chased didn’t stop, they kept right on running as they passed me, I guess the four doing the chasing weren’t all that intent on catching the two, for they stopped when they saw me.

Turkeys calling off the chase

Then I got these of a female cardinal near the stream, I thought that she was going to go for a bath, but she didn’t.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

I think the reason she didn’t take a bath was that there was a feral cat in the area. I was going to snap a photo of it, but I was too busy shooting the birds that came out of the underbrush to escape the cat.

House finch

House finch

House finch

House finch

The other small birds didn’t cooperate as well as the house finch did, either they were too far away, or didn’t sit still long enough for a shot, so I crossed the creek at the bridge and found this squirrel who wanted its portrait taken.

Fox squirrel

It kept its eyes glued to me as I continued walking, I thought it may fall off the branch it was on.

Fox squirrel

I continued my walk, taking a few more photos that aren’t worthwhile posting here, until I got to the juniper tree where I had taken a few photos of a male cardinal on an earlier walk. Several people raved about that photo, but I was never that happy with it, so I have made the juniper tree a regular stop on my daily walks, hoping to get a better one. Luck was with me on this day, I saw a cardinal back in the branches, waited, and it came out to make an appearance for this shot.

Male northern cardinal in a juniper tree

That’s better than the earlier one, but it still isn’t quite what I want, so I’ll keep trying. I have noticed that the male cardinals seem to be brighter red this winter than I can remember them ever being before.

Male northern cardinal

I’m not sure if they really are a brighter red, or if it is that we have had a lot more sunshine than is typical of a Michigan winter, making them seem brighter in the sun, when we normally have endless cloudy days that mute all colors.

Next up is a chickadee in action, some shots are good, some not so good, but they are of one of my favorite birds, doing what they do best, non-stop clowning around.

This one thinks that it has been hired as a building inspector.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Of course what it is doing is looking for insects under the edges of the siding on the building. And that reminds me, I was wrong about chickadees, they don’t always use jet packs to get around, sometimes they do fly using their wings.

Black capped chickadee in flight

I got one of it hopping from branch to branch, and singing as it was doing so.

Black capped chickadee

It’s tough to see their eyes, since their eyes are the same color as their feathers.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Then this one was joined by two more, and they chased each other around for a while.

Black capped chickadees chasing one another

Not the greatest shot in the world, but how often do you get a chance to capture three chickadees in flight at one time? Well, at least most of three of them, those little buggers are quick!

Which brings me back to calling your shots. This next photo was actually taken today.

Black capped chickadee in flight

I saw this chickadee working its way through the brush, coming towards me. When it got close enough for a photo and perched, I brought the camera the rest of the way to my eye, cranked the zoom in as I pressed the shutter release halfway for the camera to auto-focus and set the exposure, and as soon as I heard the beep from the camera and saw the focus was good, my mind said shoot! At that exact same moment, the chickadee made its leap into flight. I could see that it was airborne even as the mirror of the camera was locking up, that’s how quickly it all happened.

Stupid branch, got to get me a chain saw! Wait, I already did that post.

Back to the last photo, when my mind told my finger to press the shutter release, it was going to be a photo of a perched chickadee, by the time the photo was actually captured, it turned out to be of a chickadee in flight, which I saw as the mirror locked up. Why is this important? Because you have to take that delay into account when you are trying to take action shots of wildlife, or any other moving subjects. In the case of the last photo, it just happened to be luck, but it is luck that I practice at, by shooting as many moving targets as I can, and by calling my shot on each one. I am learning how long the time delay is between my mind telling my finger to fire, and the time when the photo is actually captured, and my brain is beginning to take that time delay into account when I am trying to time action shots.

That time delay is different for all of us, because of us, and because of our equipment. We all have different reaction times, and not all cameras work at the same speed. And, it takes a while for our brains to be trained as to how long the time delay is, and the only way it happens is through practice. Practice, practice, practice!

Well, that’s about it for this one, I hope you aren’t all too upset about my rant in the beginning of it, thanks for stopping by!

Now if that don’t beat all

I’ve got a lot of environmental and recreational news to share, but first a little side note.

Tuesday afternoon when I went into work I had to go up to the front office to speak with my immediate supervisor about the logistics of getting the truck I drive in the shop for its regular maintenance. While I was standing outside my supervisor’s office, the owner of the company came over to me to ask if I was going to attend the Christmas party this year, but first, he had to make fun of the old worn out shoes that I wear to work. The reason I wear old worn out shoes is because he’s a cheap bastard that doesn’t pay his employees what they are worth.

It must be that I’ve mellowed out over the years, in my younger days, I would have done one of two things depending on my mood, either have lit into the owner for being such a cheap bastard and then having the gall to poke fun of the shoes I was wearing, or I would have walked out without a word, and never returned. Of course the economy was a lot better back then, and I never had to worry about landing another job. The truth is, I don’t really have to worry about it now, holding a CDL-A with a Hazmat endorsement and a clean driving record, I could be working somewhere else by the end of the week. The problem is that I have gotten more picky in my choice of jobs over the years as well. I don’t really want to go back to driving over the road and be away from home for weeks at a time.

I’ve also gotten smarter, if I had quit on Tuesday, I would be throwing away any holiday pay for Christmas and New Years, plus, the first of the year, I’ll be getting a check for an extra week for the paid days off that I haven’t taken. I’m not about to hand that cheap ass bastard I work for an extra weeks pay just because I got mad. Revenge really is a dish best served cold, so I’ll wait until that extra weeks pay is safely in my checking account, then let the cheap ass bastard know what I think of him as I walk out the door.

I have decided that if I can’t find a different local job by the first of the year, I’ll go for a regional over the road job. It isn’t my first choice, but it’s a job, and one that pays about twice what I am making now. The bad part, only being home for a day and a half a week. At least I will be able to buy some new shoes. 🙂 I’m thinking of gift wrapping the ones the cheap ass bastard made fun of and leaving them for him as a parting gift to thank him.

Now, on to the good news, and where do I start.

I think it will be with this story, the states of Wisconsin and Michigan are teaming up to create a joint park along the Menominee River in the western Upper Peninsula. You can read the entire story here

That stretch of the Menominee River includes two popular geologic features: Piers Gorge and Quiver Falls, and it will be Michigan’s first whitewater recreation area. It also will be the first state recreation area to be jointly managed. The river forms the boundary between the two states and has class IV and V rapids.

I hate to admit this, but I’m not sure I would want to tackle that river at my age. Since I’m pushing 60, I’m not as spry, or as foolish as I used to be. I would have to look the rapids over first, and that will be made easy as hiking trails also may be developed along with high-bluff overlooks and canoe and kayak launch sites and parking.

“The walk along the shorelines will be spectacular,” said Paul Yauk, the linear trails program manager with the Michigan DNR.

If only it wasn’t so far away. That’s a full day drive from where I live.

In my last post I wrote about the clean up being done in Muskegon Lake, in 2005-06, a similar $10 million cleanup of contaminated sediment was completed at nearby Ruddiman Creek next to Muskegon’s McGraft Park. You can read about the clean up here.

In fact, Muskegon is making the news a lot recently. The old Sappi paper mill has been purchased and the new owners are in the process of demolishing the old mill.

I hate to see people lose their jobs, but I am not at all sad to see the old paper mill go away forever! The stench from the mill was enough to make your eyes burn if the wind pushed the fumes your way, and the mill itself was an eyesore.

Another good news/bad news story is that Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest electric utility is going to shut down the B. C. Cobb power plant in 2015.

The public utility on Friday said the two remaining coal-fired units at B.C. Cobb will cease operations by Jan. 1, 2015. Cobb’s two units are among seven smaller coal-generating units statewide that will be closed.

The good news is that Consumers is shutting down its coal-fired plants and relying on others that are fueled by natural gas, which is a good thing for the environment. The bad news, as a single property, the B.C. Cobb generating plant is Muskegon County’s largest taxpayer. A good deal of that tax money goes to the local schools, so that’s a hit they don’t need at this time. There are also 116 people employed at the plant, but most of them will probably be offered transfers to other Consumers Energy facilities.

This is great news for the environment, but we have to remember that there are a lot of people who are going to be affected in a negative way, from the loss the tax base to people losing their jobs.

More good news for the Muskegon area, the Owasippe Boy Scout reservation has brought in an expert to design a new system of trails for mountain bikers, hikers, bird watchers and trail runners.

The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center is working with the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, which owns the Owasippe property, to manage the land during the 46 weeks of the year when it’s not used for Boy Scouts summer camping.

The old trails were shut down to the public last year due to the environmental damage, mostly erosion, that was happening. With the help of the Alcoa Corp. which donated $3,000 and 12 employees to join about another dozen volunteers for a trail work day at Owasippe to return the abandoned section of trail to nature — a process that will be done with all of Owasippe’s trails that are rerouted.

The new trails will be laid out so as to minimize any damage to the environment, and will be expanded to take users through even more of the 5,000-acre property.

I am going to end this one with some good news from the Grand Rapids area, where I live. Turns out that the Grand River isn’t as polluted as most people assumed.

That’s about test results done in hopes of either removing the dam on the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, and possibly restoring the rapids that the city is named for, or constructing a man-made set of rapids for kayakers to use.

The 4th Street dam in Grand Rapids

There’s a lot more I should say about this, and the news that two universities have received a grant to research converting the S S Badger from a coal-fired ship to using natural gas, but my heart isn’t into this right now. In fact, there was more to be said about all the stories I posted links to, but right now, my employment and financial situation are weighing me down mentally.

Since I started this post a couple of days ago, I have talked to a national trucking company, and have a job offer to consider. The pay and benefits are so much better than my current job that it is hard to say no, except, I would be out for a week at a time with 34 hours of home time each week.

That would mean I would have to suspend this blog, heck, I would have to suspend my life. Thirty four hours off isn’t enough to do anything more than get ready for the next week on the road, doing laundry and grocery shopping, then packing. There would be no trips up north, not even any local hiking or kayaking trips.

I tell myself to take the job, knowing I won’t be there for long, a year or so at most. I could pay off some bills, and what’s a year? I’ve done it before, I can do it again.

Well, I don’t have that many years left, I don’t really want to lose another one, not for money anyway.

There’s so much to consider in making a decision, if I am boring you, please feel free to click away now.

I’m lucky in that I’m in pretty good shape for some one my age, which is 57 years old. Most people judge me to be about ten years younger when they first meet me. In fact, one of the branch managers where I work made the comment that he could handle the heavy laundry carts as well as I can if he was my age. Turns out that I’m a year and a half older than he is.

That’s another thing I have to consider as far as a job, driving over the road isn’t the healthiest lifestyle either. I am just now getting back into shape after the years I spent over the road before I got the job I have now. Sitting behind the wheel of a truck for 11 hours a day, chain-smoking to stay awake and fight off the boredom isn’t something I want to do again.

I’d better change the subject. We got our first real snow of the year last night, just enough to cover the ground. I haven’t sorted through the photos I took to have any post here yet, I’m not sure there are any worth posting. I do love the first snow of the year though, it’s always so bright and clean.

Only a few more days left until the winter solstice, the day of the least amount of daylight. From that day until the summer solstice, our days will be getting longer. Our coldest months are January and February, but at least the sun climbs higher in the sky each day, and it stays light longer with each passing day. I think I will have myself a celebration of sorts on the first day of winter, not to celebrate winter, but to celebrate the longer days that are coming.

I’m sorry for the disjointed rambling nature of this post, the weekend is coming up, and I’ll be back to normal with a couple of days off. Thanks for stopping by!

Some odds and ends, another photo dump

Before I get to the pictures, a little environmental news. I read that the EPAis nearly finished with a clean up project in Muskegon Lake, always good news when old pollution finally gets cleaned up. The 12 million dollar project includes dredging 60 acres of contaminated muck from the lake bottom, and reconstructing the shoreline in the area. The contaminated muck held mercury and petroleum-laced sediment. I am glad to see it go, Muskegon Lake is getting close to being removed from the EPA’s list of a Great Lakes Area of Concern, an EPA list of toxic hot spots. Yeah!

Now, on to the photos. These are shots that I have taken in the last few weeks that are too good not to post, but don’t fit into any one category. I’ll start with a couple of cloud pictures.

Heart in the clouds

A new species of bird?

Cloud bird

OK, how about some real birds? First up, a white breasted nuthatch finding something good to eat. I shot these quickly, trying the spot metering mode of my Nikon. The results were better than usual, but not great.

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

The photos aren’t the greatest, but I like the series as it shows the nuthatch as it digs in the bark of the tree for a goody, which you can see in the bird’s beak in the last shot of the series, just before the nuthatch flew off to eat what it had found.

Then there’s this shot, just because I like it, the colors and the contrasts.

Berries, color and contrast

Then, a female cardinal that was perched near the top of a tree, something I rarely see.

Female northern cardinal

Cardinals of both sexes normally feed and stay closer to the ground than this, except when the males are singing. Then they will perch high in the trees, but I seldom see a female more than a few feet off the ground.

More berries.

Bright red berries, from a mountain ash if I remember right

I forgot which trees these berries were on, silly me. I think it was a mountain ash.

Back to birds, an American goldfinch.

American goldfinch

I’m not sure if it is male or female, the males molted their summer colors a couple of months ago.

A couple of ice shots from one of the ponds here.

Thin ice on a pond


Thin ice on a pond

A lone goose taking to water..

Canadian goose join the rest of the flock.

Canadian geese

I have complained about my Nikon a lot, but this last week I found out that it loves turkey!


Turkeys may appear black most of the time, but they’re not. It all depends on how the light reflects off from their feathers.


I really like the way the Nikon captured the colors of the turkeys, and the iridescence of their feathers. Hopefully I will be able to get some really good photos of the male turkeys doing their strutting in the spring, and will be able to do another “Turkey dance” post.

I don’t know if you’ve read the post I did titled “Good hikes gone bad” where I posted this photo of a great blue heron behind some trees….

Heron behind the ghost trees

Well, I took a couple of photos from where I was standing that day.

Scene of the crime

You can see the creek in the right side of this photo, that’s where I first saw the heron flying towards me.

Scene of the crime 2

That was shot looking slightly to the left, in the area where the heron was when I took the shot of it behind the ghost trees. As you can see, there are no trees there that would have blocked the shot the way it came out. It still bugs the crap out of me just where those two ghost trees came from that spoiled the heron photo. Oh well, that’s not the only frustrating heron photo.

Very bad photo of a heron in flight

I was tracking this heron as it walked through the cattails, just waiting for it to leap into flight. The auto focus was tracking the bird nicely, until this, the moment I pressed the shutter. There was a slight delay as the auto focus switched from the heron to the cattails in the foreground, then the shutter went. That was enough of a delay to cause me to chop off the birds bill, and of course the heron is out of focus, argh!

More bad heron pictures? I’ve got them.

Great blue heron in flight

I saved this one because it helps to show why great blue herons are called what they are, and not great grey herons. I don’t know if this one is starting to develop its spring mating color, or if it was a fluke of the camera, but this is the way herons are colored in mating season.

I took these two to demonstrate to some friends the way that using the exposure lock can help them to get better photos.

Red tailed hawk

That one was taken by just pointing the camera at the hawk and pressing the shutter.

Red tailed hawk2

For this second one, I tilted the camera down, pressed the shutter release half way to set the exposure for the side of the building, locked the exposure, then centered the hawk for the shot. The sky behind the hawk is washed out and over exposed, but at least you can make out a few details of the hawk.

One more heron in flight photo..

Great blue heron in flight

I have one more shot for this one. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that I go for a daily walk or hike around the apartment complex where I live, and many of my photos are taken then. I normally try to cut any signs of human development out of any photos from around here, but like with the hawk photos above, that isn’t always possible. I mean, I stepped out of the door of my apartment, and perched there on a building across from me was the hawk, kind of hard to cut the building out of that one. So here’s a shot that will give you an idea how nice it is here.

Where I live

OK, so I don’t live in any of the buildings in this photo, it is one of four ponds here, along with four creeks that cross the complex. I seldom “hunt” this pond, as it is surrounded by apartments. The other three ponds are on the outside edges of the complex, so I am not bothering any one when I wander around those ponds.

I have a view of one of the creeks from my apartment, but I loved this shot of the willow tree and its reflection in the pond. That’s the pond in the center of the complex, the rest of the buildings radiate outward like spokes in a wheel. In between are the creeks and fingers of wooded areas that block your view of the next set of buildings over.

They did a very nice job in designing the layout of this complex, leaving lots of wooded and brushy areas for wildlife to live, as evidenced by the photos I am able to get here. I watch deer, turkeys, birds, muskrats, herons, ducks, geese, even coyotes from my living room window. If I were of a mind to, I could sit out on the balcony of my apartment and take my photos from there, and save myself the daily walk. Being old and fat, I need all the exercise I can get.

I love it here, more than I ever thought I would. I’m not an apartment dweller by nature, I love living in the sticks. There are some upsides to apartment living, more free time to spend outdoors, not doing yard work or home maintenance projects. 🙂 I just signed another year lease, so it I’ll be here for at least six years total at the end of this one, who would have thought? Not me, but there is one thing that bothers me though, that is I have found that as I look around for subjects to photograph, I look small. That is, I look for subjects on the small-scale, like flowers and insects, and I wonder if that is affecting my vision as a photographer. I’ll have to do a post on that, or I should say, finish one I started.

I wasn’t sure if I should post that last picture, I don’t want to burst any one’s bubble if they thought that I spent all my time out in a wilderness area somewhere. I would love to get away more, but that isn’t possible right now, so I make do the best I can.

That’s it for this one, hope you enjoyed it bad photos and all, thanks for stopping by.

Some more rainy day thoughts

It’s pouring outside, it has been since last evening. I just made it home from my walk when the rain started, light at first, but it has been a heavy rain all night into this afternoon. I don’t mind being out in a light to even moderate rain, but the rain falling now would soak me to the bone if I wore just a water-repellent parka, and I’m not sure my rain jacket will fit over the parka.

That’s OK, I have a lot to blog about anyway.

Yesterday, I read Bob Zeller’s Texas Tweeties post, and in it he noted the poor condition of a bird blind he used to use a lot in a state park near where he lives. Some of the reason for the poor condition of the blind sounded as if it were due to vandalism. That happens way too much, everywhere. It is something I have ranted about in the past, and I’m about to again. One reason there is so much vandalism is that we, the public, don’t alert the authorities when we see it happening. Some how we have been brainwashed into thinking that it is wrong to “rat” on others. Some of that goes to our childhood when our parents told us not to tattle on others. Of course if we didn’t tattle on a sibling who was doing something seriously wrong, then we were in trouble for that. 🙂

Part of the don’t rat on others comes from the old gangster movies from the 1930’s and 40’s, you know, when James Cagney or Humphry Bogart killed a few innocent citizens while robbing a bank, the murders were a less serious crime than ratting them out for the killings was. That notion continues to this day, that it is wrong to get involved or to rat out wrong doers. I’m sorry, I no longer buy into that silly idea. The vandals are destroying public property, property that our tax dollars bought and paid for.  In a way, it is no different when a vandal breaks a window in a state park building than it is if the vandal were to break a window in your own home, you get stuck with the bill.

Back this spring, when the State of Michigan was talking about closing some of the state forest campgrounds in this state, I had a chat with the unit manager of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, and he told me that some of the criteria for choosing the campgrounds that were to close were vandalism and theft. It cost the state too much money to repair the damage done by vandals, and to replace items stolen from the campgrounds. What are people stealing? Fire rings, picnic tables, even the trash cans in the campgrounds. How hard up do you have to be to steal a trash can? I think the trash cans were taken just because some one could take them.

The same thing applies to poaching as far as I am concerned. We the taxpayers shell out millions of dollars for the state to manage and protect our wildlife. The deer aren’t the King’s deer, the fish aren’t the state’s fish, they are our deer and fish, and when poachers violate the game laws, they aren’t stealing from the king or the state, they are stealing from us, the public.

If we were to see some one dumping poison that would kill the deer or fish, most of us would be very quick to report that, but if we see some one killing the same amount of game while poaching, that is some how OK. Not to me, I’ve had it up to here with people bragging to me how many fish they caught and dumped because they didn’t feel like cleaning them all. I’ve had it up to here with seeing deer carcasses piled up in parking lots of trailheads because the poachers didn’t want to get caught with the carcasses. I’ve gone so far as to program the number to report poachers into my cell phone, and I’m not afraid to dial it. In Michigan, that number is 1-800-292-7800. Call me a rat, a ratfink, a snitch, a squealer, I don’t care, I’ve been called a lot worse in my lifetime.

On a somewhat related note, I promised to do a series on places to kayak in Michigan, and I started a post on my favorite river to kayak, the Jordan River. Then I read the story that I posted earlier, about the drunken rowdies that kayak, canoe, and/or tube the Jordan. I’m tired of them as well, and I have ranted about them before also. Now, I’m not so sure I want to do that series on places to paddle, I know the trouble makers are in the minority, but I don’t want to contribute to the problem by giving the rowdies ideas about places to go. I will probably get around to doing the series, after all, the people I don’t want to attract to the rivers I love to paddle more than likely aren’t able to read anyway.

On a more positive note, there’s a new swamp in town. There’s a small creek that flows behind my apartment, it isn’t much of a creek, it is more like a drainage ditch. This summer I noticed that it had all but dried up, we had a drought this summer, but I didn’t think it was that bad that the creek would dry up.

A few weeks ago, I began to hear more and more ducks back there, hearing ducks there isn’t unusual, but the numbers this fall were way more than normal. When the leaves dropped off the trees, I could see why there were so many ducks, and why the creek stopped flowing for weeks. Something blocked the creek, and several acres of woods behind the apartment complex have been flooded. When the water in the new swamp got high enough, the creek started flowing over what ever is partially blocking it. I can see ducks and geese in the swamp, swimming around, and I heard wood ducks back there before they left for down south. The ground is too soft for me to get back to see what has dammed the creek up, but the new swamp is pretty cool.

Now I’m going back to being Mr. Negative, sorry about that, must be the weather. Anyway, one of the news stories I read this morning was a list of things we can do to save money on energy. Here’s what I copied from the article that originated from Consumers Reports Magazine…

Make your TV more efficient
That’s right—today’s TVs can eat up just as much energy as refrigerators. If you have a set-top box, like most homes, consider trading it for one that meets Energy Star’s tougher new 3.0 specification. And if you buy a new TV, make sure it’s set to “home mode” which is more efficient than the retail mode typically used when sets are shipped. The $30 to $60 in yearly savings could pay for dinner—and a movie

……Really? Spend $1,000 on a new TV to save $60 a year? Wouldn’t there be like a 17 year payback before you saw a penny of savings? How much energy was used to build the new TV? Or the packaging for it, or transporting it from overseas?

I love it when people make recommendations without using an ounce of common sense. I’d be willing to bet that by the time you added up all the energy it takes to produce, package, and ship a new TV, that the environment would be better served if you kept your old TV, or do what I did, unplug the darn thing and never turn it on again. If you spend $1,000 on the new TV, you’re not going to see any “savings” until you account for the purchase price. I save that $30 to $60 on energy, and more. I don’t have a cable or dish bill, and my TV uses NO power at all. It just sits in the living room collecting dust so I have something to do between outdoor adventures, cleaning the TV that’s never turned on. 😉

The rain is letting up, looking out the window I can see turkeys and squirrels moving around, so I think I will get myself out of this funk with a good long hike. Thanks for stopping by!

What a wacky idea!

I was up before dawn this morning, so I started reading the news as something to do while I waited to see what kind of day it is going to be before I decide what I am going to do today. That was a bad idea, for one of the first stories that caught my eye was “Officials unsure what DNR reorganization will mean for campgrounds, trails, and of course I had to read it, since I most often camp in State Forest campgrounds, and hiking is one of my favorite activities.

First, a little background. There have long been complaints that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was a huge bloated bureaucratic mess. That complaint even came from some of the people within the DNR. Back in the 1970’s, there was a push to split the DNR into two separate agencies, one charged with protecting the environment, and the other overseeing the State’s parks, hunting, fishing, timber, and so on. The idea was that the same agency that pushed for consumption of our natural resources, such as oil, timber, natural gas, etc, couldn’t be trusted to properly protect the environment at the same time.

Nothing happened with that idea until the 1990’s when then Governor John Engler did split the DNR, creating the Department of Environmental Quality, a move I supported. However, since Gov. Engler was a Republican, many environmental groups were all up in arms over that move, one that they had once pushed for. Our last governor, Jennifer Granholm, recombined the two agencies into one again, then the first of this year, our newest governor, Rick Snyder, split them again.

The way the different categories of our state’s parks have been managed has still been a mess, some managed by the Parks and Recreation Division, and some managed by the Forest Management Division, depending on what type of park it was. State Parks and some trails fell under the Parks and Recreation Division, State Forest campgrounds and some trails fell under the Forest Management Division.

The idea at one time was that the Forest Management Division would be somewhat self funded, with the money from the harvest of timber on state land funding that division. Of course that didn’t work out well. When the state implemented the Recreational Passport system last year, it required a complex formula for where the money from it went. Most went to the Parks and Recreation Division for the state parks, some is awarded to local governments for local parks, and the last part of the money goes to the Forest Management Division, earmarked for the State Forest campgrounds and recreational opportunities within the state forests.

This kind of mish-mash of a bureaucratic mess has long been one of my pet peeves. I have several lengthy posts started on the subject, don’t get me started on the Federal bureaucracy alphabet soup that controls our federal public lands.

One of the problems with these bureaucratic nightmares is how much money gets wasted with different departments billing each other , trying to use other departments to enhance their revenue stream, and turf wars between departments that often lead to protracted court battles.

Just a small example here, I have to try to stay focused, or this will become another lengthy draft that never gets finished. While overall I support the idea of splitting the DNR into the DNR and the Department of Environmental Quality, one of the results is that the state has to license their own campgrounds. I understand the concept, some one has to make sure that our campgrounds are environmentally sound, and that responsibility has fallen on the DEQ, which requires that the DNR licenses the campgrounds, which the DEQ permits and inspects to make sure that the campgrounds do meet environmental standards. But the idea of the state buying a license from itself seems silly to me. That’s what happens when bean counters take over and reality as we know it ends.

Back to the news story. The story doesn’t recount where the idea originated from, but the DNR is going to be reconfigured somewhat. The Parks and Recreation Division of the DNR is now going to take control over the state forest campgrounds, trails in the state forests, and other recreational opportunities within the state forests.

The Forest Management Division will be split into the newly created Forest Resources Division and an Office of Land Management, which will oversee oil, gas, and mineral responsibilities, as well as real estate work currently in the Finance and Operations Division.

The news story hints that this was the brainstorm of the new Director of the DNR, Rodney Stokes. I applauded his appointment by Gov. Snyder last fall when the announcement of Mr. Stokes’ appointment was made public, he’s the most non-political Director of the DNR that Michigan has had in some time now.

The idea of combining all the state’s parks, campgrounds, trails, and recreational opportunities under one division makes sense to me, probably too much sense. Why have one set of campground managers in the Parks and Recreational Division, and another set in the Forest Management Division?

There will most likely be some wailing and gnashing of teeth over this, along with the funding issues that go with it. The state nearly shut down several of the state forest campgrounds this last spring as the state didn’t have the money to keep them open. That included my favorite campground, Round Lake State Forest Campground. I hope this new alignment of the DNR helps to put all our campgrounds and parks on stable financial footing.

This may require some tweaks to the Recreational Passport system, which did slightly better than it was projected to do as far as participation and revenue raised for our state parks. As I wrote above, there’s a complex formula for allocating the money raised by the system. And by the way, we need a lot more people to take advantage of that new recreational Passport system, word is that there is about 30% participation by Michigan residents, good, but not great. Ten bucks a year to get you into any state park or recreation area in the state? Come on people, we can do better than that. I know times are tough, but this is the best deal the state has come up with in my lifetime. Take advantage of it, support our state, our state and local parks, and get out there and enjoy yourselves!

Anyway, being the practical, results oriented person that I am, having all the state’s campgrounds managed by the Parks and Recreational Division of the DNR makes perfect sense to me, it’s one of those wacky ideas that just might work, the devil will be in the details as always though. There may even be problems with this idea in the form of pressure from the Federal Government. The Feds are already threatening the state with withholding federal dollars from several federal agencies over some land use issues each of the goobledy gook of federal agencies are pushing. For example, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is threatening to cut off its funding to the State of Michigan because Michigan allows some equestrian use on lands purchased with Fish and Wildlife dollars.

Michigan’s State Forests were “assembled” by purchasing small tracts of land using funding from many sources, some of the parcels were purchased with federal dollars. Now the state is spending millions of dollars to identify where the funding for each parcel came from, and relocating equestrian camps and trails to parcels of land not purchased with money from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Because hunters are being pushed off from more and more federal and state lands, they are pushing back to stop any non-hunting uses of land purchased with their money. This nonsense of different factions all fighting over the public use of public land has got to stop, or pretty soon, all the money we pay in taxes, fees, and licenses will end up going to fight the battles over land use, and no money will be available to enhance our recreational opportunities. That’s the subject of another post though, one I should get around to finishing one of these days.

For now, I’ll just say that I really like the idea of combining all of Michigan’s parks, campground, trails, etc, under one division, it is a story I’ll be following closely.

I hope I haven’t bored every one to death with another of my rants, as always, thanks for stopping by!

For Turkey Day, the Turkey Dance

Since Thanksgiving is Thursday, a day that normally features a huge meal centered around a stuffed turkey, I thought I would post a few turkey photos.

Back when I was a kid growing up, there were no turkeys here in Michigan, they had been wiped out by over hunting. It’s been a while, so my memory may not be 100% correct on this, but I think that back in the early 1970’s, the State of Michigan swapped some trout eggs from one of the hatcheries with either some turkey eggs or poults from the State of Missouri. However Michigan obtained the turkeys, the rest as they say is history, and a great history at that. The re-introduction of wild turkeys here in Michigan has been a huge success!

Wild Turkey

Now there are turkeys in every county in Michigan again.

Wild Turkey

But you need more than one turkey for a turkey dance. There are actually two turkey dances from what I have seen. One is done by females and juveniles as they determine their pecking order within the flock. If you have ever seen domestic chickens, it is about the same thing, but I have never seen turkeys actually peck each other the way domestic chickens do. But they do circle and bully the lower ranking member of the flock, and force them to the outside edges of the flock. That’s not the focus of this post though, the turkey dance I am going to highlight is the one done by the males, known as Toms or gobblers.

Wild Turkey

For this dance, the gobblers spread their tail feathers, drop their wing-tips almost to the ground, and ruff out the rest of their feathers to make themselves look as large as possible. In addition their wattles and snoods, the flap of flesh dangling from above their beaks swell, and turn red, blue, or sometimes white.

Wild Turkey

Then, if there is more than one male, the dance begins.

Wild Turkeys

Of course it is a mating dance, with each male trying to make himself as attractive to the females as he can, along with intimidating the other males.

Wild Turkey

It is a very slow dance, each male turns in slow circles, showing off to the females.

Wild Turkey

At the same time as they circle, they also circle around the other males, trying to gain the best position to show off from.

Wild Turkey

I have never seen them actually bump or push each other, but they come close at times.

Wild Turkey

The dance continues

Wild Turkey

The dance is also called strutting.

Wild Turkey

And strut they do!

Wild Turkey

Each one trying to out strut the other.

Wild Turkey

These were taken just a few days ago, and of course it’s fall here, so these dances are just the warm up for the real dances in the spring, when turkeys mate.

Wild Turkey

When the males do their strutting, it is one time when you can approach them fairly close. That holds true of many species of critters, when they have mating on their mind, they are much easier to get close to them. Whether it is a male songbird singing to find a mate…

Cedar waxwing

Or a whitetail buck thrashing the brush to notify other males in the area that this is his territory.

Whitetail buck

The mating season for most animals makes them at least somewhat crazy, just as it does we humans. It is a good time for photographers, as you can normally approach animals more closely, but you do need to use some caution around larger animals, such as deer, elk, and of course, bears. They can turn and charge in an instant, and I have seen one guy get thrown by a bull elk out in Yellowstone, and another nearly trampled by a bison. It is said that few animals are as ornery as a bull moose during the rut, and I know one person who was chased up a tree by one.

If you want to take photos of animals, then knowing when their mating seasons are, and what their mating habits are, can help you to get closer than you normally could. Most animals and birds are in their finest form in the mating season, and make better subjects for photographers then as well.

Thanks for stopping by, and don’t overdo it on the turkey on Thanksgiving, we need a few left to do the turkey dance next year.

Wild Turkey

Saturday morning musings

First off, I have to give a shout out to Michelle Alzola  and her photo blog, My Photo Journal~ photography by ©Michelle Alzola. She sort of specializes in flower photos, although her blog isn’t limited to the incredibly beautiful flower pictures she posts. How I forgot to mention her before is only another sign that I am getting old and have an occasional senior moment. I have put a link to her blog over on the right side of the page, and I will be adding a few more this next week.

In other news, work on recovering the submerged oil from the Enbridge oil spill has been halted for the winter. The Enbridge oil spill happened in the spring of 2010, when a pipeline owned by Enbridge burst, releasing over 800,000 gallons of crude oil into a stream that flows into the Kalamazoo River.  Work will continue on the river banks, cleaning and restoring them over the winter. In my last update on this subject, I noted that Enbridge had missed a deadline set by the EPA to have the spill cleaned up. It turns out that because of the heavy grade of crude oil that was released, the chemicals added to the oil to get it to flow through a pipeline, and that it spilled into freshwater have made the oil sink to the bottom of the river rather than float on top the way oil normally does. That means that both the EPA and Enbridge have been learning as they go, and “innovating” new techniques for recovering the submerged oil. Enbridge has submitted an updated plan to remove the remaining oil from the Kalamazoo River, and the EPA has approved the plan.

To me, any deadline for completing the clean up is arbitrary, especially since both the government and Enbridge are dealing with the unknown. This is the largest spill of this type of crude in history, and it has to be cleaned up no matter how long it takes. From what I understand, the new plan submitted by Enbridge and approved by the EPA recognizes this fact, the plan is to wait until the core samples taken as work was winding down on removing the submerged oil come back from the labs, and then to see how much oil remains, and how best to remove what does remain.

How much oil spilled is still somewhat of a controversy, the EPA announced that 1.1 million gallons of oil had been recovered so far, and that Enbridge underestimated the size of the spill in the beginning. Enbridge is saying that the 1.1 million gallon figure includes oil from other sources from over the years, like road runoff, and that their estimate of 840,000 gallons of oil spilled is correct.

Who is right? Does it matter? Not really, any amount of oil spilled is too much, and it all has to be cleaned up, no matter what the source was. In all likelihood, the Kalamazoo River will end up being cleaner after the work here is done than it was before the spill. There are two reasons the size of the spill matter, one is that if Enbridge is found to have under or overestimated the size of the spill, then they can be fined heavily. The other reason is for damning purposes, the bigger the spill, the more damned Enbridge can be by environmentalists and the press.

One of the real stories here is that we still haven’t gotten a report from the government as to what caused the pipeline to rupture in the first place, when a report was promised back in February.

It was shown when the spill was first discovered that the reporting requirements set forth in federal law actually delayed work getting started on containing the oil spill. Enbridge was required to assemble an accurate estimate of the size of the spill and report that to a government agency that has nothing to do with responding to any spill, all they do is take the reports, when their phone lines aren’t all busy, then pass those reports on to other agencies that actually deal with the response.

Being the practical, results oriented person that I am, I would hope that the law is changed, so that if something similar ever happens again, response times can be improved. I would hope that the EPA would be contacted directly, with the conversation going like this.

“Hello, this is Mr. Bureaucrat from the EPA, how may I help you?”

“Hi, this is Mr. Soandso from Enbridge Energy, I have to report an oil spill.”

“OK, what, where and why?”

“It is crude oil from our pipeline 6B near Marshall, Michigan, and I am afraid it is going to turn out to be a big spill, we think the pipeline ruptured and released hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil.”

“Not good, I’m going to put you on hold for a second while I connect with that region’s office so we can relay the exact location directly to them so they can get crews on the way to get this contained.”

At that point, the regional office could get the exact location and dispatch work crews to begin containing the spill, but all too often, environmental laws are written to produce revenue for the government more than to protect the environment.

As an example, back in the early 1990’s, I worked for a supplier to the automotive industry. Some of the parts we produced were spray painted, using paints containing Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC’s as they were called, in simple language, lacquer thinner. VOC’s are not good to breathe as any one who has painted probably knows, and it wasn’t good that we were pumping out tons of VOC’s out the stacks of our spray booths every year.

The industry was working to switch to water based paints, with poor results for the most part. If you’re old enough, you may remember cars that had the paint peel off not long after they left the showroom floor, further contributing to the idea that American cars were lower quality than their imported competition. At the same time, the EPA was looking into regulating the discharge of VOC’s into the atmosphere.

The company I worked for at the time was still family owned, and the person who started it was quite the hunter and outdoorsman. When word came that the lab had found a water based paint that would work on the parts that we produced, and would hold up as well as their counterparts that contained VOC’s, he didn’t wait for EPA regulations, he ordered all our paint lines switched over to use the water based paint. That meant all new spray booths, lengthening the drying conveyors, and adding more ovens to dry the water based paints. Adding it all up, it was over 5 million dollars to upgrade our plant’s equipment to use the water based paints. Over the two-week Christmas shutdown, we ripped out every old spray booth, installed new ones, and made the required changes to the drying lines to give the water based paints time to dry before they were packed for shipment.

A few months later I read in the local paper that the company was being fined 2 million dollars because of the changes the company had made to its paint lines, and one of the local politicians was quoted as saying it was a great example of “polluters pay” laws. I thought to myself, “How can this be, the changes we made reduced our emissions of VOC’s, which was a good thing.” At least I thought so.

We were fined the 2 million dollars because the permits we were required to submit to the state were filled out incorrectly for the work we had done. It had nothing to do with actual pollution, which we had indeed reduced. The company appealed the fines, on the grounds that the state DNR had approved the permits, and that we had reduced pollution by moving away from using VOC’s.

The judge sort of agreed, he reduced the fine to 1 million dollars, stating that the company had filled them out wrong, but that since the DNR had approved them, we shouldn’t be fined the maximum amount the law required.

Great, we get fined 1 million dollars for reducing the amount of a dangerous compound we were pumping out into the atmosphere, and in the meantime, our competitors are still pumping tons of VOC’s out the stacks of their spray booths, and they don’t receive any fines.

I don’t think the owner of the company was too happy either, for it wasn’t long after that, that he sold the company to a larger one, which quickly drove the company I had worked for into bankruptcy, and it closed for good.

I’m not say that the fines were responsible for the owner selling, or the fact that the company eventually went belly up, there are many other factors as well. That experience and others has helped shape my view on the pollution laws in this country, the State of Michigan, and on how the media report things.

The media and environmental reporting, there’s a subject I could write a book about. I was almost interviewed once while filling up the gas tank of my pick up at a local gas station. The cute bimbo reporterette and her cameraman walked up to me, asked me a question, stuck a microphone in my face, and when I started giving a reasoned, scientific explanation about what she had asked, she yelled “Cut!” and moved to the guy on the other side of the pump. She asked him the same question, and he asked her why she had cut me off, he said that he wanted to hear what I was saying, that it was making sense to him. The reporterette yelled “Cut!” again, and she and her cameraman moved down to the pumps at the other end of the gas station, looking for the answer she wanted to hear, not what people actually had to say, not a reasoned scientific answer, no way!

There have been several other incidents in my life that were reported on by the local media, and I can tell you they are more likely to get the story wrong as they are to tell what really happened. I have learned to take everything I hear from the media with a grain of salt, two or three grains if it is a report by a local broadcast “journalist”.

In other news, the United States House of Representatives passed a Coast Guard funding bill this week that contains an amendment that would allow the S.S. Badger ferry to continue the controversial practice of dumping its coal ash into Lake Michigan. The S.S. Badger is the last coal-fired ferry operating in the United States. It runs between Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The Badger, owned by the Lake Michigan Carferry Company, operates under a special Environmental Protection Agency rule that is set to expire in 2012. There is also a movement underway to get the Badger listed as a national historic landmark, which would also exclude the owners from complying with EPA regulations. The owners are also looking into converting the Badger’s boilers to use natural gas to make steam, rather than coal. The owners say that converting to diesel power would be cost prohibitive, but they may be able to obtain grants to pay for the conversion to natural gas.

I couldn’t find earlier stories that explained why the operators of the ferry couldn’t store the coal ash in an empty coal bunker on the ship until it could be off loaded in port, it may be due to the fire hazard, I am not sure about that. I know that the coal dust in coal bunkers is very explosive, more than one ship has been lost when the coal dust exploded. One hot ember in the coal ash in a bunker filled with coal dust, and it would be boom boom Badger, bye-bye.

Several environmental groups are all up in arms about this, in a way, I can’t blame them. Coal ash is not a good thing to be dumping into Lake Michigan. On the other hand, it is the last of what were hundreds of coal-fired ships sailing the Great Lakes, all of which used to dump their coal ash into the lakes. I also wonder how many and how much of the same stuff found in coal ash blows into the Great Lakes each year from all the coal-fired power plants to our west? I also wonder how many pollutants the Badger is keeping out of the Great Lakes if people take the ferry rather than driving the 460 miles around the south end of Lake Michigan?

I hope they do eventually convert it to natural gas, I don’t really want the coal ash in my drinking water, but then, there are lots of things in the waters of Lake Michigan I would rather they not be there, man, man-made, or natural. Let’s face it, millions of fish, mussels and other critters live, breed, and die in the lake. There’s all the stuff we dump into the lake, and I really hate to think of this as I am drinking a glass of water that started in Lake Michigan, but hundreds of ships have sunk in the lake. Not only is their fuel there, but the cargoes as well, and not all the bodies of all the sailors that have drowned in the lake have been recovered. I’d better stop there.

Anyway, when it comes to the Badger dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan, I’m not happy with it, but I’ll live with it, what troubles me more is the comment made by Representative Bill Huizenga, who has said the amendment is an example of getting rid of federal government regulations that threaten small businesses. He’s the Republican representative who sponsored the amendment to the Coast Guard funding bill that lets the Badger continue to dump coal ash into the lake.

That may seem strange after what I wrote earlier about the environmental laws in this country, but the problem I see is this, there’s no common sense, no middle ground. Democrats want to pass punitive environmental laws that serve to punish all businesses, whether they pollute or not, and the Republicans want to repeal most of our environmental protections, whether they work or not.

In addition to the story about where I used to work, I’ve held many positions where I have had to deal with environmental laws. Most of them are about record keeping, and sending reams of paperwork on to Washington, or be fined heavily if you forget, or make an error in the paperwork. They have little to do with actually protecting the environment, and are all about generating revenue for the government.

Another example, some years back, a number of companies in the northeastern US were fined heavily because the licensed hazardous waste hauler they used was dumping the hazardous waste in regular landfills or out in the woods someplace. The federal government licenses hazardous waste haulers, and collects healthy fees from them. But, the policing of hazardous waste haulers is left to the companies who employ their services.

So, you have companies who believe they are doing the right thing. They hire a federally licensed hazardous waste hauler to dispose of their hazardous waste. The guy’s got a federal license, so the companies think they are safe, wrong! The companies using the hauler in question got hit with larger fines than did the waste hauler who was dumping the stuff illegally, that’s not right, at least as far as I am concerned.

Morning is long gone, and I’m still musing away. I did take a break for my daily hike around here, and for the second or third day in a row, didn’t take a single photo. Hmm. I’ve still got some more musing to do though, since I have gone this far.

One other story on the environment I would like to relate has to do with bottled water, specifically, the Nestle Ice Mountain plant just north of where I live, in Stanwood, Michigan. This was also a few years ago, back when I was still driving over the road, still with my ex-girlfriend, and shortly after Nestle had opened the plant. The state and many environmental groups were working to shut the plant down, because of the amount of water that Nestle was pumping out of the ground.

The trucking company I worked for had a contract with Nestle, so I picked up many a load there, and one of the nice things they do is give drivers product that Nestle has made a mistake on when they bottled it. It may be that the labels were wrong, or in the case in the story I am about to relate, the labels were on the bottles upside down.

I came home from work that week, lugging a case of Ice Mountain water that had the labels on upside down, and Larri, my ex, about had a fit.

“How can you buy that stuff when you’re such a big environmentalist and fisherman?” she asked.

“I didn’t buy it, they gave it to me when I picked up a load there. You know that I wouldn’t ever buy water, I’m too cheap for that.”

“But still, I don’t know any one who stands on principle the way you do, I can’t believe you took it even if it was free.”


“Because of how much water they are pumping out of the ground, that can’t be good.”

“Look, people are going to drink the same amount of water whether Ice Mountain pumps it out of the ground, or if their local water system does. X number of people are going to drink Y gallons of water, whether it comes from Ice Mountain or the kitchen faucet. You used to live in Plainfield Township, right?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Where does Plainfield Township get its water?”

“I don’t know, Lake Michigan?”

“No, Grand Rapids gets its water from Lake Michigan, but Plainfield Township gets theirs from a series of wells near Plainfield and Coit.”

“That’s right, I remember that now.”

“So what difference does it make if it’s Ice Mountain or Plainfield Township pumping the water out of wells?”

“I don’t know, that’s a good question. But what about the water that gets shipped off to other parts of the country?”

“What about the water that gets shipped here from other parts of the country?”

“What do you mean?”

“I pick up a load of Ice Mountain water and haul it down to the Meijer distribution center in Tipp City, Ohio. Pick up a load of groceries there to take to the Lima store, from there go to Proctor & Gamble in Lima, pick up a load of liquid laundry detergent, that’s mostly water, and haul it back to Michigan.”

“I pick up a load of green beans, packed in water, from the farm co-op in Muskegon, haul it to Saint Louis, Missouri, then bring back a load of liquid fabric softener from Uni-Lever, which is mostly water, and bring that back to Michigan.”

“You know I’m always bitching about how heavy the loads I pull are, like the Campbell’s soup loads, they are mostly water too. This push for legislation to keep the Ice Mountain water in the Great Lakes watershed is ridiculous, because it opens up a whole can of worms where I don’t think they really want to go. The truth is that water gets shipped all over the place the way it is now, and if they start trying to limit the movement of water, somebody is going to figure out that products like Coke, Pepsi, and the things I’ve mentioned are mostly water, then where does it stop?”

“I don’t know, I never thought about that, but you’re right.”

“I’m more worried about the millions of plastic bottles that Ice Mountain is making, and people are throwing away where ever they empty them. That’s Nestle’s environmental sin, not the water itself, and you can’t really blame Nestle for the fact that people are pigs and will trash the environment, although I do blame them for the bottles in the first place.”

“I never thought of that either, but you’re right, all those plastic bottles are made from petroleum products. I wonder if they will extend the bottle deposit law to other drinks like bottled water?”

“We can only hope.”

Well, it is now Saturday evening, so I better wrap this one up. No, it hasn’t taken me all day to type this, but long enough. The State of Michigan still hasn’t expanded the bottle deposit law, I’m not sure why there hasn’t been a more vigorous effort to do so. Maybe they have enough headaches with the current system and don’t need any more, I can’t say. I do know I am tired of finding empty bottles, from bottled water to sports drinks to energy drinks dumped all over the place. Humans are such pigs!

I hope I haven’t bored you all to death, thanks for stopping by!

State, conservationists differ on how to protect Jordan River from overuse / Michigan River News

From the Michigan River News Blog

State, conservationists differ on how to protect Jordan River from overuse

By Andy McGlashen • November 11, 2011

If you’ve ever run the rapids of northwest Michigan’s Jordan River in a canoe or kayak, you know what makes it a paddler’s paradise. There’s the clean, swift water, the springs trickling out of shadowy cedar forests, and the chance of spotting a mink or a bald eagle.

And sometimes there’s the band of beer-drinking revelers, whooping it up on the riverbank.

Heavy use of the Jordan by party-minded paddlers is raising tough questions about how to preserve the wild character of Michigan’s first designated Natural River. Local conservationists want to build structures to protect the resource, but they face opposition from the state program that restricts development on wild streams.

“It’s a fragile resource that’s being loved to death,” said John Richter, president of Friends of the Jordan River Watershed. “Somebody told me we should let nature take its course. And I said, Wait a minute. This isn’t nature. It’s people.”

Richter says about a half-dozen sites on the river are being degraded in one way or another from overuse. Paddlers and tubers litter and relieve themselves on private land. Stream banks are eroding, which can ruin fish spawning habitat. And the landings where people launch and end their canoe trips don’t have enough space or parking.

“People are just pulling off the river where there’s high ground and converting them into campgrounds,” Richter said.

Perhaps the most popular party spot on the river is Frog Island, an area of riverbank surrounded by wetlands where repeated loading and unloading of canoes and kayaks has caused severe erosion.

“I understand their point of view, but the program isn’t working. They want no man-made features, but what’s happening is worse.”

“Frog Island is probably a third the size today of what it once was,” Richter said.

When Friends of the Jordan and other partners installed woody debris a few years ago to shore up Frog Island’s banks, “people just ripped it up,” according to Brian Bury, administrator for the Natural Rivers Program of the Department of Natural Resources.

Richter said he would like to see stream banks at Frog Island and other sites stabilized with logs—larger than the woody debris used there previously—to stop erosion. At Old State Road, where heavy paddling traffic creates problems with parking and trespass on private property, he favors building a new parking area and a landing with toilets and a boardwalk just upstream from the road, on public land.

But those ideas have met resistance from the Natural Rivers program, which was created in 1970 to ensure that development doesn’t diminish designated rivers’ aesthetic character, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities.

“We’re looking for a natural river that offers a certain kind of experience,” Bury said.

For now, Bury said any ecological damage caused by overuse of the Jordan isn’t significant enough to merit changing its aesthetic character, and building new landings would just set the table for heavier traffic and more elaborate parties.

“The general thought is that, at this point, we’d do more harm than good” by building the structures, he said.

Richter said he respects Bury and his work, but thinks the state’s position is shortsighted. The “certain kind of experience” the program promotes has disappeared on the Jordan, he added.

“I’m not sure Brian has spent enough time on the river, say on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July,” he said. “I understand their point of view, but the program isn’t working. They want no man-made features, but what’s happening is worse.”

Richter said another solution proposed in public meetings is a limit on the number of watercraft on the river. But he and Bury agree that such a limit would be unpopular and hard to enforce. Paddlers need permits to float some rivers within national forests, but the state has no permit system.

“To control private use of watercraft, we’d need a legal mandate,” and that’s not something the state is interested in, Bury said.

Don Montfort, whose family owns the Swiss Hideaway canoe and kayak livery, said his clients are on too tight a schedule to cause much trouble. He said the main problem is the growing number of locals who have flocked to the river as canoes and kayaks have gotten cheaper, a position Richter shares.

“The locals say, ‘This is our river, and we’re going to stop wherever we want to stop,’” Montfort said.

Other ideas under consideration include increased law enforcement and more signs indicating restrooms, access rules and river etiquette. But enforcement has already been stepped up with little effect, said Montfort, and signs are unlikely to discourage bad actors.

“When you block off one area” from riverside partying, “it’s just going to pop up in another,” he said.

Richter agrees that it will be tough to find solutions that work for paddlers, conservationists, anglers, homeowners and the state, but his group will continue holding meetings and seeking input.

“We’ve got to do something,” he said. “Before we know it, I think we’re going to have a dozen Frog Islands.”

via State, conservationists differ on how to protect Jordan River from overuse / Michigan River News.

Another Enbridge oil spill and other updates

There have been a few new developments relating to the Enbridge pipeline that ruptured last year, spilling over 800,000 gallons of crude oil into a small creek that feeds the Kalamazoo River.

One is that Enbridge has missed a deadline for cleaning up at least some of the spill. According to the story I read about it, the EPA isn’t too concerned about the fact the deadline was missed. There have been many unforeseen problems in dealing with this spill, I am not sure, but I believe it is the largest oil spill in freshwater in history. Just this last spring, the EPA announced that the clean up was almost done, and that they would be re-opening the river for recreational use. Then they found that large amounts of the crude oil had sunk to the bottom of the river and had collected there. Normally crude oil floats, but because of the grade of crude that spilled, and the fact that it is in freshwater has meant that both Enbridge and the officials overseeing the clean up have been learning as they go along.

On a spill of this magnitude, I would think that any deadlines would be at least somewhat arbitrary anyway. It isn’t as if a spill of this type happens everyday, thank goodness, and we really don’t want to flood a river with oil now and then for clean up crews to practice on, or to learn how crude oil reacts in every type of water. As long as Enbridge is doing what it takes to do the job right and clean up all the oil, then I guess that’s all we can ask for.

The poor Kalamazoo River, I think it is the most heavily polluted river in southwestern Michigan. For over two hundred years, man has done his best to destroy the river, and it keeps bouncing back. The Enbridge oil spill occurred upstream of the city of Battle Creek, but several stretches of the river below Kalamazoo are, or were, EPA Superfund sites due to PCB contamination from the old paper mills that used the river as a dump. I have never canoed or kayaked the stretch of the river where the oil spill occurred, there are too many dams too close together to make for an enjoyable float of the length I normally do. I have floated the Kalamazoo River from downtown Kalamazoo all the way to where it empties into Lake Michigan, and like all rivers, it deserves better than we have given it. Nearly a dozen dams impeded its flow, a few have been removed, but many still remain.

A good source of information for you if you are interested in floating the Kalamazoo River is the Kalamazoo River Heritage Water Trail website. Maybe I’ll get around to posting some more information from my trips kayaking the Kalamazoo River soon. If you like doing the occasional larger river as I do, you will love it, especially the portion of the river that flows through the Allegan State Game Area. The sad thing is that before you set out to float the Kalamazoo, you have to check to see if the stretch of the river you are planning on floating is open or not. The stretch of river where the oil spill happened is closed until further notice, but there are also parts of the river farther downstream are closed to recreational users when the EPA is working to clean up the PCBs or is in the process of removing one of the dams slated for removal. I have no idea how much work remains to be done downstream from the oilspill, but I did read that Georgia Pacific was finally going to get around to capping two landfills in Kalamazoo that were leaching PCBs into the river. For more information about what the EPA is doing along the Kalamazoo River, you can follow this link.

Since  the deadline from the last clean up plan has been missed, Enbridge now has to formulate a new clean up plan and submit it to the EPA for approval. I am fairly certain the clean up will continue during this process, but it still irks me that this game has to be played. It isn’t just Enbridge and this spill, it is what happens in many instances the way our environmental laws are written. A company has to come up with a plan and submit it to the correct government agency, which then has to review the plan, and either approve or reject it.

If the plan is approved, all is well and good, but if it is rejected, the same process is repeated, maybe several times. Needless to say, the process never plays out quickly. It would seem to me that it would be much quicker to have the two sides sit down to hash out and approve a plan together. The government officials have a general idea what they want the plan to be going in, so why play this silly game all the time? If the company involved is dragging its feet or refuses to do what needs to be done, then take it to court and let a judge decide.

Maybe that wouldn’t work after all. The lower Kalamazoo River is a perfect example of how not to get things done. There has been decades of plan submissions, rejections, legal wranglings, and all the while, pollutants continue to leach into the river, making the eventual clean up even more costly. It makes no sense to me.

In other related news, Enbridge has received permission to begin replacing the pipeline that burst, they are in the process of replacing several five mile long sections of the pipeline at this time, including the stretch where the pipeline broke. Enbridge was already in the planning stages of replacing sections of the pipeline before it burst, it is a shame they didn’t get around to it sooner, and then none of this would have happened.

There has still been no word from the Federal Agency investigating the break as to what caused it in the first place, eight months after they promised a report, and well over a year since the pipeline broke.

In my last update on this, I wrote that Enbridge was working with the Michigan DNR and local officials in the Pigeon River Country, installing new equipment and holding training sessions for emergency responders so that something like this will never happen in the PRC. I also wrote that I thought that Enbridge was doing the same in other areas, but that I wasn’t positive of that, now I am. In the latest newsletter from the Anglers of the Au Sable, they reported that Enbridge is installing new safety equipment on a pipeline they operate that crosses the Au Sable River. Enbridge is also holding training sessions with first responders in that location as well.

The purpose of my writing this is not to do damage control for Enbridge, but to point out that once in a while there is a company willing to do the right thing. I have no illusions that Enbridge is taking the steps that it is in other locations for any other than for financial reasons. They have learned the hard way that prevention is the best medicine, and that it is better to spend some money up front than it is to wait until the worst happens and deal with it then. If it hadn’t been for the Kalamazoo River spill, I seriously doubt that Enbridge would be doing what it is to prevent future spills. No matter what their motivation is, at least they are taking the right course of action as of now. If that changes, I’ll be one of the first calling for swift and harsh retribution.

On the other hand, I can’t help but to contrast the way Enbridge is dealing with its mistake and the way that Golden Lotus is dealing with the issue of removing the dam that it operates on the Pigeon River that has been the cause of two major fishkills in the Pigeon River. I am not going to type out the entire story again here, if you’re interested, you can read some of my earlier posts about it here, and here. There’s not much news to report on that front. Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning Ranch filed an appeal of Judge Murphy’s order requiring full removal of the dam, that appeal was thrown out as entirely without merit or some equally as strong legal language, I have forgotten the exact phrase the Judge used in dismissing the appeal.

Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning backed themselves into the corner they are in, there would have been money from several sources available to aid them in removing the dam, if it wasn’t being done under a court order. Now that a judge has ordered the dam to be removed, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning has to foot the entire bill.

One more bit of news, the public comment period is now open for the land use plan being reformulated by the US Forest Service for the Huron-Manistee National Forest. I first posted about this subject here. As a result of a lawsuit, the Forest Service was ordered to reconsidered a land use plan they had finalized in 2006. The point of contention is that the Forest Service plan allows hunting and snowmobiling on too much of the Nation Forest land for one person’s liking. Here’s a link to another news story about this.

Comments about the proposed plans can be mailed to Huron-Manistee National Forests, ATTN Kenneth Arbogast, 1755 S. Mitchell St., Cadillac, MI, 49601. They can also be faxed to (231) 775-5551 or emailed to Comments will be accepted through Dec. 21.

I think that’s about all for now. So much news, so little time for blogging about it all. I have several posts in the works about land use and related  issues, but they continue to grow in length with each new story I read. It seems like we are headed for a time when each individual has a small piece of public land where they can do exactly what they want, since no one seems to be willing to share public lands with other users any longer.

As always, thanks for stopping by to read my little rants.

Federal judge halts Paiute cutthroat trout recovery plan – Sacramento Bee

This is a story from the Sacramento Bee that I am posting in its entirety, since not every one reads the Bee.

Federal judge halts Paiute cutthroat trout recovery plan

By Denny Walsh

Published: Saturday, Sep. 10, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 1B

A Sacramento federal judge has quashed a joint federal-state plan to improve conditions for a rare High Sierra fish, ruling that an auger driven by a gasoline-powered generator cannot be used in designated wilderness areas.

For more than 25 years, government agencies have sought by various means to increase the population of the Paiute cutthroat trout and restore this rare creature to its historical range.

Six years ago, U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. ordered a halt to the state’s plan to poison one stretch of a High Sierra creek and a lake as part of the recovery project.

This week it was Damrell again stepping in to block the latest plan with a permanent injunction based on the federal Wilderness Act.

Spokespersons for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Game vowed Friday that the agencies will continue to work together to find a way to accomplish the recovery and restoration of the Paiute cutthroat trout.

“Our team of lawyers are currently reviewing the order to see what we can do to move forward,” said Fish and Game spokesman Kevin Thomas.

Critical to this analysis, he said, is the Forest Service’s decision to employ the auger.

“We can retool the project to address the court’s concerns, we can appeal, that’s two of our options,” he noted.

The plan was to poison with rotenone 11 miles of Silver King Creek to kill non-native fish that crossbreed with the Paiute cutthroat and then to stock the stretch with pure Paiute cutthroat from established populations in the upper portions of the watershed.

The creek is in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness section of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Alpine County. The 11 miles includes six miles of the main stem of the creek downstream of Llewellyn Falls to Silver King Canyon and five miles of tributaries.

The auger would be used to distribute potassium permanganate to neutralize the toxicity of the rotenone further downstream.

The action was proposed to prevent extinction of the Paiute cutthroat, as required by the federal Endangered Species Act, the agencies say. The Paiute cutthroat is native only to Silver King Creek and is listed under the ESA as a threatened species.

The goal is 2,500 pure Paiute cutthroat greater than 3 inches in length in the pristine watershed.

The agencies recently announced they planned to begin the project in the late summer or early fall of next year. Rotenone was to be applied twice a year over two to three years; each application would take seven days.

Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, Wilderness Watch, and Friends of Silver King Creek, all nonprofit corporations, sued to stop the project.

They claim that the use of the auger does not qualify as an exception to the Wilderness Act’s prohibition of motorized equipment, that the project elevates recreational fishing over preserving wilderness character, and that the agencies failed to prove the project is necessary to meet the act’s minimum requirements for administering wilderness areas.

The agencies countered that using the auger is the most effective method of applying potassium permanganate compared to the drip system, and would minimize the human and ecological effects.

In his 63-page opinion issued Tuesday, Damrell agreed with the plaintiffs that, in choosing the conservation of the Paiute cutthroat over preservation of the wilderness character, “the agencies left native invertebrates species (such as stoneflies, caddisflies and mayflies) out of the balance, and thus improperly concluded that authorization of motorized equipment will comply with the act.”

The plaintiffs are entitled to a permanent injunction barring the project, the judge declared, because “they have demonstrated that rotenone treatment will kill sensitive macro-invertebrate species and that re-colonization will not occur for some species because they cannot adapt to the project area” once the plan has been carried out.

He said the facts tip in favor of the plaintiff “as no exigency exists to begin the project now,” and “the public interest favors preservation of the unimpaired wilderness.”

via Federal judge halts Paiute cutthroat trout recovery plan – Sacramento Sports – Kings, 49ers, Raiders, High School Sports | Sacramento Bee.

The Enbridge oil spill, one year plus

Some one should write a book about this event, but I doubt that it would ever be published if some one did.

For those of you who don’t know, a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy ruptured on July 26, 2010, a little over a year ago, dumping over 800,000 gallons of oil into a small creek that flows into the Kalamazoo River near Battle Creek, Michigan. This was, and still is, a major environmental disaster, and I believe that Enbridge should pay for the entire clean up, and be fined heavily on top of that. But, the real story, and what has interested me the most, is the incredible amount of red tape that Enbridge faces in trying to clean up the mess they created.

In the first few hours after the story hit the news, Enbridge was crucified for not reporting the spill to federal officials earlier than they did. It turns out that when a pipeline operator reports a spill, they are required to provide an accurate estimate of the size of the spill, or face heavy fines if the estimate is even a little wrong. It took Enbridge a few hours to get an accurate estimate of the size of the spill.

Then, a review of both Enbridge’s, and the federal agency to whom they report, phone records show that Enbridge did attempt to call earlier, but all the lines were busy. And that was just the beginning.

The agency Enbridge was required to notify has nothing to do with responding to a spill or the clean up of a spill, so that resulted in delays while the proper agencies were notified.

That was on a Monday morning. On Monday evening, Enbridge had crews on site, containing the spill. On Tuesday morning, top officials from the State of Michigan, including then Governor Jennifer Granholm, toured the site of the spill, proclaimed the sky was falling, and not enough was being done to clean up the spill. On Tuesday afternoon, President Obama promised a quick response. On Wednesday morning, federal officials arrived, proclaimed there was a problem, and sent for reinforcements, which finally began to arrive on Wednesday evening.

The section of pipeline that ruptured was excavated soon after the spill, and sent to the proper federal agency for an investigation into what caused the pipeline to burst. That agency promised a report in February of this year, but as of September 17th, no report has been issued. We still don’t know what caused the pipeline to burst.

It has been one thing after another. A story will break on some aspect of the clean up that points to Enbridge not doing enough, then we learn that Enbridge is waiting for approval from some federal agency before they can proceed. I could go on and on about this, but I am going to cut this short. In looking up a few things to refresh my memory, I came upon an editorial in the Kalamazoo Gazette calling for Enbridge to be sued. Why? Because federal regulators and federal agencies have failed. I know that makes no sense, let me quote you from the editorial.

“Yet, we would view a lawsuit as a positive development in this particular case — and not because there would be any real remedy that could undo the kind of environmental damage that has been done here. Taking the case to court would ensure a public hearing of the facts.

A lawsuit could shine a spotlight on exactly what transpired; compel information to be produced through discovery; disclose facts that may have a bearing on what happened; hold those who are responsible for what happened accountable for their actions or their failure to act; and penalize any wrongdoers with significant fines and costs that could be considerable.

When the legislative branch fails to protect the people — in this situation by not reforming how oil pipelines are monitored and maintained and adjusting the penalties for failure to adequately do so — the judicial branch can effectively act in the interests of the people.

Long before this Enbridge environmental disaster in July 2010, lawmakers should have promulgated aggressive legislation to compel improvements in pipeline maintenance. That didn’t happen.

That’s why we’re looking for a lawsuit.”

You can read the entire editorial here.

With all due respect to the editorial board at the Kalamazoo Gazette, we know who is responsible, Enbridge. What caused the leak? I am no expert in pipelines, but I did see the photos of the ruptured pipe after it was excavated, it was split lengthwise. We are still waiting for the report from the federal agency investigating why the pipe ruptured, but I think it is a safe bet to say that an operator who wasn’t paying attention flipped the wrong switch, or pushed the wrong button at the wrong time, causing a surge in the pressure within the pipe, causing the pipe to split along an old seam in the pipe. Enbridge will be fined copious amounts of money for not training their employees better, even if the operator responsible had 20 years on the job. As long as there are humans involved, there will always be human error, and as long as there are mechanical devices involved, there will always be equipment failures.

And again, with all due respect to the powers that be at the Kalamazoo Gazette, if you want answers, then maybe you should assign a reporter or two to do some real investigative journalism rather than sit at their desks and rewrite the news releases sent to them. (That’s one of my pet peeves, there is no investigative journalism being done these days, unless you count the paparazzi investigating the personal lives of celebrities.)

The media loves to go off half-cocked and call for action before we know what actions should take place. Until we know for sure what caused the leak, how can any one formulate legislation, regulations, or rules to prevent the same thing from happening again?

How is filing a lawsuit against Enbridge going to get legislators and regulators to perform the jobs they were elected or hired to do? A lawsuit against Enbridge is quite likely to have the opposite effect, officials will feel they are off the hook as far as their actions, and it would be prudent for them to await the outcome of a suit before they act once a lawsuit is filed. Once a case is in the court system, the judge’s decision would have a direct bearing on how new rules and regulations should be crafted, so everything would be put on hold until the judge makes his ruling to give the officials direction as to how they should proceed.

If the editorial board of the Kalamazoo Gazette is looking for quick actions, I’ve got news for them, the court system is not where you are going to find quick action. Such a lawsuit as the one they are proposing would take years or decades to work through the system before there is a definitive ruling.

And what would that ruling be? It’s hard to say. I doubt that any judge assigned to the case has the technical background to issue a decision until they have taken the time to educate themselves on the issues, and they would have to rely on expert opinions. Then you get into a situation where you have conflicting expert opinions, depending on what axe the expert has to grind. Which expert the judge chooses to listen to is hard to say.

That whole point should be moot anyway, the Kalamazoo Gazette is calling for a court to make law since the legislature and federal regulators are moving too slow as far as the Gazette is concerned. Perhaps the editorial board of the Kalamazoo Gazette should familiarize themselves with the document known as the United States Constitution. It is not up to the courts to make law, that duty is reserved for the legislative branch of our government.

If Enbridge was shirking its responsibilities in the clean up, then I would agree, file a law suit, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. When accusations have come up that Enbridge isn’t doing what it should, or as much as they could, the federal officials overseeing the clean up have defended Enbridge and the way it is handling the clean up.

Filing a lawsuit will only slow down the clean up. People will have to take the time to attend court hearings, give depositions in the case, and that will only distract them from the task at hand, cleaning up the spill and making sure that such a spill never happens again. Enbridge would have to spend huge sums of money defending themselves in court, and how often have companies been driven to bankruptcy leaving no money left to clean up the mess they created after fighting such lawsuits? I am not saying that Enbridge would be driven into bankruptcy, but it is a possibility, and then there would be no money left to clean up the spill other than public funds, and why should we force a company out of business, then pick up the tab for cleaning up after them?

That happens way too often in this country, but then there are those who have as a goal the putting companies such as Enbridge out of business. I see that as counterproductive. It is better that a company survive and pay for the clean up out of their profits than it is for Joe Taxpayer to foot the bill.

Maybe the editorial board of the Kalamazoo Gazette should inform themselves better before they go off on a rant. I know that Enbridge is installing new safety measures on pipelines they operate in the Pigeon River Country, including automated shut-off valves to limit any oil spills should a pipeline rupture. They are working with the Michigan DNR, and other state and local officials to come up with response plans should there be a leak, and they are taking other measures as well. I think I read that they are doing the same in other parts of the state, but I am not positive about that. Maybe we don’t have to wait for federal regulators after all.

The position of the editorial board of the Kalamazoo Gazette, that we should do something even if it’s wrong, is how we end up with bad regulations that do nothing to solve the problems they were intended to solve. I am not saying let Enbridge off the hook, I am not saying that the regulations  concerning the operation and maintenance of pipelines don’t need to be addressed, but let’s do it right for a change. Not as a knee-jerk reaction to a frenzy whipped up by the media trying to sell papers by creating a controversy where none exists.

In a heavy salmon run, poachers snag big fines / Michigan River News

I am blogging this news story, with permission of course, from the Michigan River News. They have many stories dealing with our rivers that never find their way into the mainstream media.

In a heavy salmon run, poachers snag big fines

By Andy McGlashen • September 13, 2011

Salmon-hungry scofflaws are flocking to riverbanks in northwest Michigan.

As MRN reported last month, this year’s salmon run has been a whopper.  “It’s two to three weeks early, and it’s a very heavy run,” said Lt. David Shaw, a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer whose district includes major salmon rivers like the Betsie, Manistee and Pere Marquette.

The migration of unscrupulous anglers lured by the big, tasty fish has also been above-average, keeping Shaw and his fellow officers busy.

“With the frenzy of a heavy run, we have a lot of illegal activity,” he said.  “In this district, we’re having major activity in Mason, Lake, Manistee and Benzie counties.”

That includes “some real blatant snagging,” Shaw said. Snagging, or catching fish that don’t voluntarily take the hook in the mouth, is illegal in Michigan. Many of the poachers use bare, weighted treble hooks to snag the fish, which often congregate and are easily visible in clear streams.

Shaw said he issued a citation last week to a poacher carrying the carcasses of three large king salmon from his pickup truck to the Betsie River, having put fillets from the fish in a cooler.

“It’s pretty widespread,” Shaw said, “and it comes at a time when we have six vacancies in this district.”

Tight budgets have left at least two counties–Mason and Benzie–with only one conservation officer, he added.

Shaw noted that illegally caught salmon can get pretty pricey, with a fine of no less than $250 for the first offense, plus $10 per pound of illegal fish and up to 90 days in jail.  Repeat offenders will pay at least $500 and will lose their fishing license for at least two years (though MRN has a hard time believing that losing a fishing license is a big concern for a poacher).

If you see someone snagging salmon on a Michigan river, you should contact the DNR’s Report All Poaching service.

And seriously, if you’re that crazy about salmon fillets, just go to Meijer.  They’re like seven or eight bucks, with very little chance of jail time.

via In a heavy salmon run, poachers snag big fines / Michigan River News.

A grand day kayaking the Grand River

Probably the most under used recreational outlet that there is in West Michigan is the Grand River. That’s certainly true among us kayakers, the Grand is hardly the first river that comes to mind when you think about rivers to kayak. It’s slow and it’s muddy, but it isn’t nearly as polluted as most people think, especially above the city of Grand Rapids. I know, it looks dirty, but that’s not pollution or the river’s fault, the Grand is a large mature river that carries tons of sediment each day.

Because the Grand is a large river, the largest and longest in Michigan, it has a very large flood plain by the time you get near Grand Rapids. That’s a good thing in a way, because few houses have been built on the floodplain, leaving the river looking very natural and undeveloped.

The Grand River near Ada, Michigan

As you can see, there are no signs of human encroachment in sight, and there are miles of the Grand just like this.

This trip started simply enough, my buddy Mike asked me if I wanted to go kayaking this Sunday, and my reply was that it would have to be close to home as I am saving money for my Labor Day trip to the Pigeon River Country to go elk “hunting” with my cameras. So, I suggested the Grand River near Ada, since I had grown up in that area and it has been at least 30 years since I have paddled that stretch of the Grand River. I made the mistake of suggesting that we paddle upstream to the Thornapple River, and then up the Thornapple to the dam, then drift back. It turns out that Mike has an aversion to paddling upstream, which I am going to have to cure him of. 😉 The mere mention of paddling upstream was enough for Mike to back out, but he didn’t tell me why until after I was back.

That left me on my own, which is one of the reasons the Grand River is great for a solo kayaker, it is almost as easy to paddle upstream as it is to go downstream since there is very little current in most places. I’ve done some tough upstream paddles in my day, I did four miles up the White River a couple of years ago as an example, and I’m getting too old for that kind of paddling.

My plan was to put in at Roselle Township Park, since I had read that they added a canoe landing to the park. As you will see on the map that I’ll post here later, Roselle Park is on Grand River Drive, about halfway between Ada and the DNR access site on Knapp Street. I was going to put in at the park, paddle up to the Thornapple, then drift back to the park.

I say “I was going to” because when I got to the park, my plans changed. They built the canoe landing, they even built a road going to the landing, but they have the road closed, leaving you with a half mile carry to get your canoe or kayak to the water. It’s a great park, on what used to be the Ada Beef Company property that was donated to Ada Township. Why they don’t allow you to drive to the canoe landing is beyond me, the landing is about worthless the way it is now. (Since I wrote this, I received a reply from Jim Ferro, the Ada Township Planning Director explaining why the landing and access is the way it is. You can read the explanation as a comment below the main body of this post)

Since I didn’t feel like carrying my kayak half a mile, I put in at the Amway DNR access site instead. I don’t think that its official name is the Amway access, but it is on land next to Amway’s headquarters, on land that Amway donated to the state for the access site. It is on M 21 also known as Fulton Street in Ada, on the north side of the road, and not signed. You turn into the east gate for Amway, just before the bridge over the Grand River, then veer right to the access site just before the Amway gates.

You can see where the Thornapple River joins the Grand from that access site, and it’s an easy paddle up the Thornapple. My day started well, once I got on the river, there was a great blue heron hunting on the flats where the two rivers meet.

Great blue heron

It was so focused on food that it paid me no mind at all as I paddled past it and started up the Thornapple.

Starting up the Thornapple River

It may be hard to believe, but this is right in “downtown” Ada. The only signs of development that you see are the three bridges that cross the Thornapple. One is the current automobile bridge, one is the old railroad bridge, and between them is the old historic covered bridge.

Historic Ada covered bridge

About 3/4 of a mile upstream on the Thornapple, you come to the first of many dams on the river.

Dam on the Thornapple River in Ada, Michigan

You can portage the dam, there’s a trail there for you to do so, but the impoundment above the dam is surrounded with wall to wall waterfront homes, and normally filled with jet skis and people waterskiing. The portage is mainly used for people going down river anyway, not crazies like me going upstream. That was as far as I wanted to go on the Thornapple anyway, so I turned around and drifted back to the Grand, watching the kingfishers and hawks hunting over the river.

Redtailed hawk

It was a beautiful late summer day. Sunny skies, temperature around 80 degrees, and a light wind. I drifted back to the Grand River and just let the current carry me along slowly, about the only paddling I did was from one side of the river to the other to get a better view of something on the bank. I think I saw one house and two places of business along the way, the rest of the river is heavily forested and you would never know that you were on the Grand River just outside of Michigan’s second largest city other than some occasional traffic noise.

Different people paddle for different reasons, some like fast whitewater rivers like the Pine where the paddling itself is the focus. Some people like slower rivers such as the Thornapple or the Flat so they can hang their feet over the side of the kayak and relax. Some people prefer inland lakes, and some prefer the Great Lakes. Me, I love them all and then some. I’ll even paddle swamps and marshes if there is enough water to float my kayak and a way to get on them.

This day was a hang my feet over the side of the kayak and relax kind of day, and floating down the Grand works great for that. However, it is also a good river to get the paddling muscles in shape on, if you paddle upstream. I met at least a half a dozen other kayakers who typically paddle the Great Lakes working their way upstream. Talking to them, they were there because it was close to home and a way to stay in shape for when they go out on the big lakes. They all had the long, narrow, open water boats rather than the type of kayaks one normally uses for rivers.

Did I mention it was a beautiful day?

A beautiful day on the Grand

The large floodplain and forests along the Grand River also makes a good home for many types of wildlife. Like this spiny softshell turtle.

Spiny softshell turtle

It, along with many other species of turtles were out basking in the sunshine all up and down the banks of the river. There were also wildflowers on the banks, like this cardinal-flower.

Cardinal flower

Of course there were frogs, like this leopard frog.

Leopard frog

And as I was chatting with another group of kayakers, this flock of sandhill cranes flew past us.

Sandhill cranes in flight

I drifted all the way downstream to the canoe landing at Roselle Park in order to check it out from the water, and so I would have some idea how far I had gone, and how long the paddle back upstream was going to be. The float down was about as good as it gets, but I knew the paddle back was going to take some work, so Roselle Park is as far down as I went. If Mike had joined me, we would have left a vehicle at the Knapp Street access site and floated all the way down to there, a total of about 6 river miles from the Amway access site.

As it was, I turned around and started back up the river. It isn’t hard going at all, the Grand is like a long narrow lake rather than a river. I did stop a couple of times for a break, and a couple of times for pictures like this one.

Bald eagle on the Grand River

That about sums up how great of a day it was, being able to get that close to a bald eagle as it was perched waiting for a fish to get too near the surface.

A couple other wildlife notes. There were reports of a black bear living along the river in this area a few years back, I haven’t heard of any lately though, but for as close to Grand Rapids as it is, the river itself is pretty wild. I saw a lot of clam shells in the shallow parts of the river, and along the banks, that’s to be expected. But, I also saw many clam shells on rocks and stumps out in the river. That leads me to believe that otters may have returned to this stretch of the Grand River! There are lots of raccoons living along the river, I saw their tracks all up and down the banks, in places, it looked like a raccoon super highway. And, raccoons are known to feed on clams, but I don’t know that they swim out from the bank, grab clams, and then eat them on rocks and stumps that are in the river. That sounds like the eating habits of river otters to me, but I could be wrong about that. It would not surprise me to see one there though.

I made it back up to the boat ramp at the Amway access site and called it a day, a grand day! Here’s a map of the area along with the GPS track of my paddle.

The Grand River, click on the map for a larger view

There are many options for you to choose from if you would like to give this section of river a try. The entire stretch of the Grand River from Ada to the Northland Drive bridge is like you see in the pictures, forested with very few houses or other signs of human development. The only road that crosses the Grand in this stretch is Knapp Street, otherwise it is about 12 miles of wooded undeveloped river. In fact, of all the rivers I have ever paddled in Michigan, this may be the least developed of any but a few, like the Jordan or the Pigeon. There are a couple of houses near Knapp Street, and some development as you approach Northland Drive, but that’s it.

For solo paddlers, it works great. I know, I did it backwards, you should paddle upstream then drift back, but even my trip was easy enough. But you can put in at either the access site at West River Drive (it is shown on the map above) or Knapp Street and paddle up as far as you want, then drift back down. If you want to use more than one vehicle, you can go downstream between any of the access sites, depending on how far you want to go, and how long you want to stay on the river. It may not be sparkling clear water, and there may not be much current, but if you are looking for a place close to home to spend a relaxing day on the water with abundent wildlife to watch, then the Grand River may surprise you as to how good it can be.

The stench lingers on, the Pigeon River Part III

Just so that there are no misunderstanding, most of this post is going to be my recollections and my opinions about the Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning Ranch and the dam that they operate on the Pigeon River.

First of all, I have to correct an error in my previous post “Victory for the Pigeon River! Part II” concerning the history of the dam. It has been widely reported that the dam was originally built by the owners of the Lansing Club, however, further research has shown that the dam actually precedes the hunt club days and was built by the Cornwall Lumber Company to make it easier to float logs down the Pigeon during the lumber era. That’s what I get for trusting newspaper articles, but I wasn’t alive at the turn of the last century to know that.

Anyway, you can read the previous post for a history of the dam, or I’ll do a short one here. It was originally an earthen and log dam built to float logs downstream. After the Lansing Club purchased the property they maintained the dam and the pond above it. In May of 1957, a heavy rainfall washed part of the earthen dam out, releasing sediment from behind the dam and resulted in a minor fish-kill down river from the dam. The dam was reconstructed using concrete to repair the damage. In 1970, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning purchased the land and the dam and set up a yoga retreat on the property. In 1984, and again in 2008, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning  erred in their operation of the dam, causing two more massive fish-kills in the Pigeon River.

Which was worse? It’s hard to say. The reason for the 1984 incident was that there had been an inspection of the dam, and it was found that work needed to be done on the floodgates to prevent a failure of the dam. The Michigan DNR issued a permit along with a schedule for Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning to slowly release water from behind the dam in a controlled manner as not to cause a release of the sediment trapped above the dam, so that the floodgates could be repaired. As the drawdown began, the lowered water levels in the impoundment exposed acres of the black, organic silt that is the major portion of the sediment to view, and to air. Instead of the idyllic pond that Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning was used to, there were acres of rotting organic silt mudflats that offended senses of the guests that had paid to stay at Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning Ranch.

“Humans need as much consideration as some little goofy fish” J. Oliver Black, the founder of Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning once said while overlooking the dam that has caused so much destruction. “If it weren’t for the DNR, we wouldn’t have had this trouble in the first place”. Taken from the book “Pigeon River Country: a Michigan forest”  By Dale Clarke Franz

Richard Armour, the maintenance man for Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning told the real story in the court proceedings that resulted from the 1984 incident. He acted under the orders of J. Oliver Black, otherwise know as Yogacharya Black, and raised the floodgates high enough to perform the repairs, then quickly shut them as soon as he was finished, all under the cover of darkness. This was confirmed by an automated flow gauge operated by the United States Geological Survey just a few miles downstream of the dam.

Fearing a loss of income, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning opened the floodgates all the way, drained the impoundment way too quickly, and released tons of the rotting organic silt downstream that resulted in the first stage of the fish-killing process. After quickly repairing the floodgates, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning then closed them to refill the impoundment as quickly as possible to restore the pond to its normal level. That’s the second part of the fish-killing equation, because then, the sediment that is being transported downstream settles out, coating the river bottom with the sediment, and the reduced flow of water leaves most of any surviving fish stranded high and dry.

If Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning had followed the DNR’s orders, none of that would have happened. As it was, when the DNR investigated the fish-kill, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning tried to deny they were responsible. Of course that didn’t hold up, as the floodgates had been repaired, and the only way that could have taken place is if the impoundment had been drained.

Fast forward to June 22nd of 2008. The river was just getting completely healthy again, when Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning chose to ignore the fact that the automated system for the dam’s operation was malfunctioning, and needed to be repaired. The floodgates were opened all the way, releasing another torrent of sediment downstream, and rather than respond to the alarms going off, the operators of the dam ignored them until morning, when once again, they shut off the flow of water almost completely. Once again, they tried to deny that they were responsible for the resulting fish-kill. Once again, the denials from Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning didn’t hold up.

I was up there for the 4th of July weekend in 2008, and there was no one camping at the Pigeon Bridge State Forest Campground. No one could stand to camp there, it is just over a mile downstream of the Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning dam, and the stench of rotting fish and the organic silt released from behind the dam were overwhelming. Even as far downstream as the Pigeon River State Forest Campground, several more miles downstream, the smell was more than people could stand.

Maybe I should explain what the organic silt is. Some of it comes from the normal life functions of aquatic animals, some of it is the decomposing bodies of animals that have died in the river, but the majority of it is plant matter. Either aquatic plants that die, or the leaves, trees, and grasses that fall into the river. In a normal, free-flowing river, it is transported downstream and only accumulates in a few places in slow sections of a river.

 When a river is dammed, that plant matter begins to build up behind the dam and rot slowly over time, producing methane gas as it does. The methane builds up in the silt until there is enough of it to break free and bubble up to the surface. Go to almost any lake and watch the surface, you’ll occasionally see bubbles coming up from the lake bottom, that’s methane gas rising to the surface. Methane gas smells like rotten eggs, not at all a pleasant odor.

The rotting fish were gone in a few weeks, but the silt remains in the river, and the stench lingers on. There are once again, large pockets of the silt deposited in the slower waters of the river, it will take years for the river to flush itself clean again. Every time one of those pockets is disturbed, more of the methane escapes to offend the nose.

If it were just the smell, it would be bad enough, but the smell is just a small part of the problem. The silt is clogging up the gravel that fish need to be able to spawn successfully. Trout and other fish drop their eggs in gravel, the eggs fall down in between the rocks that make up the gravel, and water flowing through the gravel transports oxygen to the eggs. With silt clogging up the flow of water through the gravel, the fish eggs die.

The silt also clogs the gills of the insects that live in the river, so there isn’t the food available that the young fish would feed on even if the eggs did manage to hatch. It will take years for the river to flush itself clean and for it to return to a healthy state once again, that is if there are no more “mistakes” by Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning before that happens.

I was still a teenager when Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning bought the Lansing club, it was no big deal to me. I didn’t agree with their ideas as far as them being vegans or their religious views, but I wasn’t going to walk into their retreat and tell them how wrong they were, to each their own is my motto. Too bad it didn’t work the other way.

Over the years I have had a few run ins with some of the guests from Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning , they are opposed to fishing, and don’t mind telling you what a horrible person you are if you do fish. Back in the early years, I would just let them vent and ignore them, but after the fish-kill of 1984, I would tell them to ask the management of Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning how many fish they had killed, just to shut up the people accosting me. If you don’t want to fish, fine, don’t fish. Don’t lecture me about fish and fishing when you know nothing about the environment, or what the company you are a client of has done to the environment.

I guess that’s what really irks me, the air of moral superiority that these people come at me with. They don’t know me, or anything about me, other than I have a fish pole in my hands, and therefore I need to be taught the error of my ways. I’ve tried to hold a civil conversation with them, but that never works. It doesn’t take long for me to figure out that they have no clue as to how the environment actually functions, they just think its pretty and that they want to commune with nature. They don’t know a may fly from a caddis fly from a stone fly, and if I point one to them, all they want to know is if it will bite them or not. (Insert maniacal laugh here) I can appreciate that they love nature and think that it is beautiful, I do too, it’s just that I commune best with nature with a fly rod in my hand, standing in the river, learning as much as I can about the way nature works, as I catch a fish or two.

I would cut Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning some slack, if the fish-kills hadn’t been deliberate. Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning claims they were accidents, BS!

When they received the permit from the Michigan DNR to draw down the impoundment and repair the floodgates, they were warned what the consequences would be if the opened the floodgates too far, too fast, but they did it anyway. Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning decided to put expediency over the safety and health of the river, and they wiped out 10 years of river life. When Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning ignored the alarm system for the dam, they once again put expediency over the safety and health of the river, and killed another 10 years of river life. Those are not the actions of a group that promotes itself as a friend to the environment. Or a friend to people.

Each time that Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning has caused these fish-kills, they have also impacted the local economy in a negative way. Vanderbilt is a poor area to begin with, and many of the locals depend on the tourist industry to make a living. When the fish have been killed, the fishermen don’t come, business suffers, and the people of Vanderbilt suffer. But then there’s that moral superiority thing again. The people at Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning don’t like the town folk, most of them are hunters and fishermen, and therefore the people at Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning don’t want to associate with the townspeople, and don’t really care what happens to them.

That air of moral superiority comes in handy when dealing with the media as well. When Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning does these things and is caught, they always fall back on the story that they are a non-profit group of Vegan yoga enthusiasts who just want to live in harmony with nature. That plays well with the media, who run a story or two about the events, then lets the story drop out of sight. If it was a for profit business that was ignoring DNR orders, sidestepping Federal Regulation, failing to maintain a dam, and killing thousands of fish, do you really believe the media would let the story drop?

Another thing that Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning does every time they are caught is to plead poverty. They can’t afford to pay the fines levied by the DNR, or afford to maintain the dam in good condition, or to remove the dam, according to them. Yogacharya Black, who founded Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning, was a multimillionaire who made his fortune in the auto industry. I don’t know what happened to those millions of dollars, but I have often wondered about a few things. Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning owns 800 acres of land, yet the yoga retreat only occupies a few acres very close to the dam and pond, the rest is all undeveloped. I have thought to myself, why don’t they sell off some of the land they aren’t using if they can’t afford to continue to own it. Well, that’s kind of tricky subject.

You see, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning still owns the land, but control of the land is now in the hands of the Clear Light Community Management Company. That’s a for profit subsidiary of Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning that is acting as a real estate developer for the undeveloped portions of the 800 acres that Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning owns. The vision is for a stand alone community, complete with housing and business owned by members of Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning. Not too long ago, they announced that they were getting close to a ground breaking ceremony to build their own fire station. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Carol Armour, the current head of Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning shares many of the same notions as her mentor, Yogacharya Black. She claims any study done that calls for the Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning dam to be removed is biased, and that the dam doesn’t harm the ecosystem of the river. OK, I guess she’s entitled to her opinion, even if it does fly in the face of science.

All I have to say is that the stench lingers on.

Victory for the Pigeon River! Part II

Paddle the pristine, nature-filled Pigeon River, stretch and rejuvenate your body with yoga, and dine like royalty as the kitchen staff pampers you with wonderful, gourmet vegetarian meals. Sound like a relaxing weekend? You deserve it! Treat yourself to all of the above and try some meditation, bring a good book, or hike the nature trails in your spare time. Led by yoga instructor, outdoor lover, and Song of the Morning staff member (name hidden to protect the guilty).”

Ahhhh, yeah, right. That was taken from the website for Song of the Morning Ranch, the yoga retreat on the banks of the Pigeon River, just outside the Pigeon River Country. That’s their advertising anyway, here’s the reality.

The dam, owned by the yoga retreat off Sturgeon Valley Road, has been in the spotlight since June 2008 when a release of water and sediment from the impoundment upstream of the dam caused a massive fish kill for miles downstream. After that incident, the DNR and PRCA filed a lawsuit against Golden Lotus, with TU signing on as an intervening plaintiff.”

That’s from a newspaper article online from the Petoskey News, you can read the entire story here.

The massive fish kill in June 2008 was the third such incident involving the old Lansing Club dam. First, a little history.

Song of the Morning Dam

The Lansing Club was a sportsman club that purchased 800 acres of land just east of Vanderbilt, Michigan, when that happened, I am not exactly sure. The Lansing Club built the dam on the Pigeon River over 100 years ago as a source for electricity back before there were any power lines in the area. Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning continues to use the dam to generate electricity, even though they admit it would be cheaper for them to buy electricity from a utility company. But that wouldn’t let them claim they are “off the grid”.

There was a major Fishkill before Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning purchased the land and the dam, back on May 15, 1957, a 1.09 inch rainfall washed out the dam and produced a 12-foot head of water that roared down the Pigeon River. The earthworks were replaced with concrete and the dam became known as the Song of the Morning Ranch dam after Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning purchased the old Lansing Club.

Since Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning has owned and operated the dam, there have been two major fish kills on the Pigeon River.

On July 3, 1984, the Song of the Morning Ranch dam operators ignored a DNR order to gradually draw down the impoundment to make critical repairs and released large quantities of water and silt from the 65 acre impoundment in their rush to get access to the bottom of the dam’s gates. The result was another silt spill into the Pigeon with the destruction of an estimated 22,000 fish! 

The second accident resulted in a four-year long court case that resulted in a Consent Order that required, among other things, “implementing an approved dam safety and management program” by the Song of the Morning Ranch so that there would never be another disaster on the Pigeon.

It was after that incident that a court ordered that if there were another such incident because of the dam in the future, the dam would have to be removed.

In April 2005 the State of Michigan petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees 99 hydroelectric dams in Michigan, to regulate the dam at Song of the Morning. FERC denied the request, as well as a request for rehearing, saying the dam did not meet the requirements for federal jurisdiction.

The fact that Song of the Morning operates off the grid was a major reason its dam escaped FERC regulation. Bryan Burroughs, executive director of Trout Unlimited in Michigan claimed the retreat, which occasionally drew electricity from the grid but now uses a diesel generator for backup power, “didn’t disconnect until they smelled that people were trying to get FERC to regulate them.”

Indeed, just four months after the state’s initial request to FERC, Golden Lotus wrote the commission, stating its intention to disconnect from the grid. “Everybody we talked to said ‘Don’t be FERC regulated,’ Song of the Morning staff  general manager Ian Wylie said. “It’s a nightmare. The cost to do that would be outrageous.”

The June 2008 fish kill was due to operator error, and resulted in thousands of dead trout lining the banks of the Pigeon River for several miles below the dam.

Dead trout on the Pigeon River, from the Detroit Free Press

Sometime during the night of June 22 or small hours of June 23, 2008, a mechanical problem caused the dam gates to open completely, or nearly so. Tons of sediment rose from the pond’s bottom, churned in the sudden torrent, and rushed through the gates into the river.

An alarm sounded, indicating a low water level in the pond, but was ignored by Song of the Morning staff, said general manager Ian Wylie. In weeks prior, the dam’s monitoring system had fallen out of calibration, causing repeated false alarms and leading the staff to switch to a backup system. When the alarm sounded in earnest, Wylie said, it got the boy- who-cried-wolf treatment.

By morning, few fish survived immediately downstream. The rush of warm pond water and organic sediment lowered the river’s oxygen levels until trout, suckers and other species suffocated, said Dave Borgeson, a fisheries biologist with the Department of Natural Resources who investigated the fish kill.

After they were smothered in a warm slurry of muck, things got even worse for the fish. When Song of the Morning staff realized the pond’s level had dropped significantly, Wylie said, “a decision had to be made.” They opted to shut the dam gates completely to stop the sediment flow, and to refill the pond. For a time, the river downstream all but disappeared.

Normal flow of the Pigeon River is 60 cfs. The operators of the dam released 185 cfs (more than three times its normal flow) on June 22. Then, on the morning of June 23, they essentially shut the flow off to a water flow of 6 cfs. Even without the release of sediment, just the fluctuation in flow alone would have had a devastating effect on aquatic life. The  dissolved oxygen (DO) levels were at or close to zero. This has a fatal outcome for fish. At DO levels of 5, stress on fish is greatly heightened; and at DO level of 6 or greater fish actively thrive.

Dave Borgeson, a fisheries biologist with the Department of Natural Resources and others conducted a survey of the affected stretch of river using a mild electric shock to stun fish so they could be counted. For two miles downstream from the dam they saw a grim parade of belly up trout, but couldn’t find enough live fish to estimate the population.

“It will be five to 10 years before the river comes back to the condition it was in the week before this happened,” said John Walters, president of the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Aside from the fish kill, organisms that serve as food were also killed by the sediments. Following the 1984 incident, fish were planted in the now depleted section of the river below the dam.

“They all died,” Walters said. “There is no food. They starved. We prefer to see the river make a natural recovery.”

The same scenario has played out after both of the fish kills they have been responsible for. Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning has been sued in court, fined by the Michigan DNR, and the resulting negative publicity has hurt the bottom line of Golden Lotus, which claims to be a non-profit entity. Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning quickly signs off on a deal with the state and other litigants to get the story out of the news, and as soon as that happens, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning just as quickly tries to go back on the deals they have signed off on, claiming that they can’t afford to live up to the terms of the agreements they have signed.

After the last fish kill in June 2008, the DNR fined Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning $1.3 million for the environmental disaster they caused. In addition, the State of Michigan and the public entity that oversees the Pigeon River Country, the Pigeon River Country Association, sued Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning for full removal of the dam under the terms of the court order from 1984. Trout Unlimited was allowed to join the suit as an interested party.

The parties involved negotiated a settlement that reduced the fine from the original $1.5 million to $150,000 to be paid in annual payments of $15,000 per year for ten years, with the understanding that Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning would use the money they no longer had to pay in fines to remove the dam once and for all. The PRCA and TU agreed to assist Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning in developing a plan to remove the dam. The judge assigned to the case and all interested parties, including Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning signed off on the negotiated settlement. That got the story out of the press, and ended the bad publicity for Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning at least at the time.

Before the ink was barely dry on the settlement they signed, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning was back trying to renegotiate the terms of the settlement, asking the state to allow them to only remove the mechanical parts of the dam that have been the cause of the fish kills, but allowing Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning to leave the impoundment itself in place.

What Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning is trying to do is escape their legal responsibilities as far as the dam is concerned. They hope that in removing the floodgates and power generating equipment that they will no longer be legally responsible for any future environmental damage that the remaining part of the impoundment may cause. I think they are acting on poor legal advice and are only concerned with their bottom line. As it is right now, they are legally responsible for any environmental damage the dam causes, even if that environmental damage was triggered by an act of nature, such as a heavy rainfall that would wash silt downstream.

Whatever their motivation is, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning is once again trying to weasel out of a deal they signed off on. That led the PRCA and TU to file suit again to force Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning to live up to the agreement that had been worked out before. Just this week, 46th Circuit Court Judge Dennis Murphy ruled that removal really does mean removal, and that Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning must remove the entire dam, not just the mechanical portions of it.

For the Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning side of the story, here’s a link to a document they have posted on the web.

William Schlecte, attorney for Golden Lotus, said he will “vigorously appeal” Judge Murphy’s decision and continue to support the ranch’s two-phase approach.

Schlecte said the appeal could first go back to Judge Murphy, then eventually the Michigan Supreme Court, potentially taking years to resolve. He also said Golden Lotus is a nonprofit organization that does not have enough money to do an all-out removal right away. He characterized his client as being devoted to a lifestyle that is harmonious with nature.

Harmonious with nature? That may be how Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning promotes itself to the well-heeled clientelle they hope to attract to their retreat, but their actions tell a different story. Paddle the pristine, nature-filled Pigeon River? Not after your client gets finished with it Mr. Schlecte, while most of the emphasis has been on the trout and other fish killed by your client, the truth is almost the entire aquatic ecosystem was wiped out for miles downstream of the dam your client controls. Not only were the fish killed, but also the insects, amphibians, and other lifeforms the fish eat, right down to the plankton that supports the entire ecosystem. Instead of the clear cool water that used to be the Pigeon, there is now the remnants of the silt lining the river bottom making it almost unrecognizable.

So your client is threatening to drag this out for years? Is that to give them more time to finish off the destruction they seem bent on inflicting on the river, Mr. Schlecte? Your client’s own document paints the dam and the associated pond as an ecological time bomb just waiting to explode for a fourth time.

Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning have proven they have no respect for the river or the environment. They have ignored DNR recommendations and orders in the past. They have ignored the warning systems they were ordered to install to prevent these events from happening. They have proven that they are incapable of operating the dam in a safe manner. They have compounded their mistakes in pathetic attempts to cover their tracks by closing the floodgates completely, hoping that they can refill the pond before any one notices the destruction they have wrought. It is time for the dam to go, NOW!

Court orders are all well and good, but we really can’t declare a victory for the Pigeon River until the dam is gone once and for all!

Victory for the Pigeon River!

I’m going to do something I don’t normally do, post an Email I just received from the Michigan Chapter of Trout Unlimited verbatim. I’ll add a few thoughts of my own at the end.

Court sides with Michigan Trout Unlimited and Pigeon River Country Association in Golden Lotus Dam case motion.

A recent opinion from the courts just validated what we at TU already knew, that an agreement for a “dam removal” means the physical removal of all of the parts of the dam. It does not mean partial dam removal, dam modification, or dam drawdown as alleged by Golden Lotus and the State of Michigan! With the judge’s ruling today, Golden Lotus is required to completely remove all of its dam on the Pigeon River – the same dam that has caused three large fish kills in the past.

Michigan Trout Unlimited and the Pigeon River Country Association (PRCA) filed motions in the case earlier this year when the dam owners, Golden Lotus, Inc., put forward a plan for dam drawdown that would not remove all of the dam, and would continue blocking fish passage. They stated their responsibilities stopped there, despite the Court Ordered settlement calling for “dam removal” (these documents can be found and read at ). The State of Michigan (the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality) represented by Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office surprisingly sided with Golden Lotus in their reinterpretation of the Court Order, and began processing a permit application for the project despite MITU and PRCA objections. Both Golden Lotus and the State argued that despite leaving the base and sides of the dam in the river and blocking fish passage, that the project should be considered “dam removal”.

In an Opinion and Order issued by the Honorable Judge Murphy of the Otsego County Circuit Court, on July 22, 2011, the Court sided in favor of Michigan Trout Unlimited and the Pigeon River Country Association. Judge Murphy stated “In other words, ‘dam removal’ means dam removal.” The court also found that “the meaning of ‘dam removal’ is clear and statutorily defined”, and “the Interim Order is not ambiguous.”

“We are very pleased with the opinion and its affirmation of our understanding of the settlement agreement we signed onto and of Michigan law,” states Bryan Burroughs, Executive Director for Michigan Trout Unlimited. “This required significant resources for us compared with that of the State of Michigan and an insurance company-paid Golden Lotus defense. But we knew what was right, and what the Pigeon River deserved, and standing up for that at all costs is what we do and why we exist.”

“It’s frustrating that the dam removal was so seriously side-tracked during this dispute,” states Dave Smith, Chair of Michigan Trout Unlimited. “We’re anxious to get back into a productive planning mode to see this project is done and done right, and get the Pigeon River healing from over 100 years of this dam’s impacts to it.”

The parties will now have to work together to develop a new plan for completely removing the dam.


Dr. Bryan Burroughs
Executive Director, Michigan Trout Unlimited

The Pigeon River

I fell in love with the Pigeon River Country and the Pigeon River when I was just a kid, but my love for the area and the river hasn’t faded through the years, it has only grown stronger. I have written about that before, so I won’t bore you by repeating myself here.

In the years since Golden Lotus purchased the old Lansing Hunting Club, they have been responsible for three major fish kills on the Pigeon. They raise the flood gates, releasing too much water along with sediment trapped behind the dam. Then they realize their mistake, close the flood gates, and reduce the flow of the river to almost nothing. All that sediment fouls the water and suffocates the trout downstream by clogging the trouts’ gills.

That’s my river they’re messing with, and my trout that they are killing, I will be so glad when the dam is finally removed and the river is allowed to repair itself and revert completely wild again!

As in the past, the trout are rebounding from the last major incident a few years ago. But they shouldn’t have to rebound every few years as they have the last couple of decades. Since Golden Lotus loves conning people into believing they are all about peace, love, and harmony with the environment, I hope they stop fighting this now, and remove the dam once and for all, since they obviously care about nothing more than their bottom line.