Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Two bucks for a hawk lunch!

2009-12-07 Two bucks for a hawk lunch!


This was a wonderful day! As I was having coffee at my dining table I saw a big buck in the back yard. I "shot" it! This is the largest buck here this year! I thought it was a 10-point, but after looking at many photos, I believe it is a 9-point "atypical".

Shortly thereafter, I saw a new buck sashay across the yard - I think it was a 7-point "atypical". Wow! What a day! He actually smiled for the camera!

Inspired, I decided to brave the cold and pursue them before breakfast. I found neither. I found a doe and this year's kid that seemed unconcerned with my slow-moving presence ("flags" down).

Then, when I was watching the does who had moved to the flood plain below, all of a sudden a lovely hawk flew into a tree before me! This was first for me! I was shaking from excitement! I need the pics! For about a week or so, I had been having problems with my Canon camera. Sometimes I pressed the shutter release and it did nothing. Sometimes it worked. Same this time. I am trying to take pics of the first hawk that came so close - pressing, pressing, pressing - "shouting!" (in my mind) - "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!". Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. While silently shouting "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!", the hawk amazingly remained.

The hawk had a fresh kill. I think it was a Cardinal. (Why do hawks get all "good birds" rather than the more abundant "trash birds" - House Sparrows)? It always seems like the rule around here. Jays and Cardinals get eaten by cats and birds of prey, and trash birds just multiply! It appears the Cardinals and Jays are much spookier and more rarely appear or stay very long. And once they leave, they rarely come back soon. So why are they the targets??? The trash birds are very abundant - yet maybe so much more immediate. They eat/leave/come back/; and eat/leave/come back; almost instantaneously. How can one seed supply the energy? And the Jays and Cardinals seem to get eaten. Why???

Anyway, I was privileged to watch the hawk eat its kill (all the while silently shouting "Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” at my randomly responding camera). Being discriminate in my movements, I was privileged to watch the hawk for at least 15 minutes. Exciting! I slowly moved around and took shots from a few angles. (The back-lighting was horrible so it did not matter too much). The hawk was unconcerned. It mostly had its back to me, but regularly rotated its head to "check me out". I guess I posed no threat!

Then - after the hawk had eaten its lunch - it just sat there. Its breast was fluffed up (I assume for warmth) and its head tucked (again in the opposite direction) and it took a nap! (This was actually a treasure in itself that it was so unthreatened). It was still there when I left! Boring! Yes, I was cold and the darn camera was sporadic at best) (The camera has now been fixed). Just how many pics of the front or back side of a sleeping hawk does one need?

Actually, I did indeed "shout" (noise only, no gestures) at the hawk a couple of times. I thought after more than 15 treasured minutes I needed to experiment. Boring! Sleeping! I guess it was not too much different than myself after lunch. In itself  this was remarkable! What a gift! A fat and happy, fully-fed boring hawk! I will probably never experience this again!

Indeed! This was probably the best shooting day of my life! On my own property (condo association) along the Clinton River in Oakland County, I "shot" two large bucks in season and a hawk eating its lunch and taking a nap! Life is good!

[OK. So who is the hawk? I think Sharp-Shinned. Bigger than a dove, but not as big as a Cooper's. I wonder about the obvious white spots on the back!  (I have lots of back pics not shown here...). I do not see hawk backs or these white spots in the books!)]

 It was just too exciting!

Come on back, good buddies! And, Happy New Years! -

"Dr. Bob"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2009-11-28 Belle Isle

This follows up on a recent note I sent to a Michigan birder's list this week. I had suggested today might be a good day to see some diving duck things (like mergansers) at Belle Isle.

In a way I hope no one went out today based on my posting because we saw very few mergansers. We saw the Hooded Mergansers (4) still in the smaller “Lagoon” at the west end– that’s about all.

But there was still a (smaller) Scaups’ raft on the northwest end (along the drive shortly after you enter the isle) – with a couple of Goldeneyes (new for us!) mixed in. Cool!

Also a couple hundred Canvasback ducks (also new for us – very pretty!) were in the Blue Heron Lagoon (park along the road between lighthouse and Nature Center) – but they were on the other side and far away. Binocs would have been fine for ID, but not great.

I just scanned a map I got from the Nature Center and posted it on PBase. By the way - the Nature Center security guard told us all restrooms are closed for the winter except the one at the Nature Center (helpful info when you drive quite a way!!!). (There are also a couple of “porta-pottys” at the nailed-shut restroom by the statue in the middle of the roundabout by the police station). Use the map in conjunction with Allen’s map in his “Guide”. Also read his “story” about Belle Isle birds – I found it very helpful!

Map is at my PBase site:

I will put some pics there later.

Today most of the birds were farther away than last time– a scope would have been helpful! I have a few possible scenarios: 1) many more people on a weekend, 2) bright sunlight – the food fish for divers were probably spookier and at greater depth (I think this is the answer), and 3) the Canvasbacks were tired of being shot at and found a “quiet corner” (we did not see them before). I do not know much about Mergansers, but they are “fancy” birds and I tend to believe fancy birds are spookier and just “do their own thing” differently.

We were there from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. It was a perfectly lovely day – in the afternoon it was 48 degrees with little wind! The weather almost invited the picnic we chose to forego.

I wish we lived closer! I suspect the observations change daily if not hourly! We drove the isle a second time before we left and the Scaups were gone – darn fickle flappy feathered friends indeed!

Species list:
A "raft" (maybe 3 dozen) of Scaups (I suspect mostly Lesser - I just have to get the raised forehead ID factor figured out...!)
Common Goldeneye (few - with Scaups)
Ring-billed Gulls (hundreds - I could not see any other gulls with them)
Canada Geese (many hundreds! - no "collared" geese)
Domestic Geese (the same white one and other one we saw earlier this week)
Starlings (two flocks)
Mallards - only a couple of dozen (too much competition for feeding?)
Pigeons (many, but not as many as I would expect during a feeding episode)
Mute Swans (10)
Hooded Merganser (one male, three female)
Bufflehead (one female only)
Coots ( uncommon - with Canvasbacks)
Canvasbacks (a couple of hundred in northeast end of Blue Heron Lagoon - wonderful!)

It was a weekend, so we were not too surprised about families feeding the birds. The geese and gulls were especially interested - gulls "win"! And, then the gulls always wanted to take the food away from whichever other gull got it! Lots of noise making - "it's mine"!

Anyway, it was a great day just to be “out”!!! I hope you enjoyed the day in late November Michigan as much as we did!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2009-11-24 A walk and a hawk, and a buck to boot!

Took a walk about noon around Streamwood Estates. Down by the river in the "Dark Forest" a Red-Tailed Hawk screeched above and landed on top of  tree across the river. I had a couple of quick shots before he flew away screeching. Cool!

Also a deer story...

2009-11-23 Belle Isle Scaups n Mergs n Buffles and an Orange-Necked Goose

23 Nov 2009 Belle Isle, 2:30 - 4:00 pm Overcast, about 50 degrees, mild winds

Placeholder - lots of pics to work on...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2009-11-15 Two "rambles" are much better than a non-existent Saturday paper

2009-11-14 Robert H Long Nature Park 2:30-3:30 pm.

Saturday's temperature was an amazing 68 degrees! Shirt-sleeve weather in mid-November Michigan! Winds calm.

Judy and I visited Robert Long Park on Saturday before attending a dinner for her paper doll club's anniversary on Saturday. (OK, go figure ... some people think bird watching is weird as well!) Let's see - if credibility can be gained by changing "bird watching" to "birding", what could we do for "paper doll collecting"? Suggestions?

Anyway, besides a beautiful November day to be outdoors (!), I picked up another new bird - a Green-winged Teal! It was a long way away (over on the freeway side of the large lake), but certainly recognizable by the vertical white bar. Cool! It was with two others - one certainly seems like a female of the same species, but the other had a white eye ring (like a wood duck) yet a long bill (like a GW Teal).

Green-winged Teal male:

And friend - a female Gadwall (thanks for identification Allen! Another new one for me!):

Besides these, RH Long was "alive" with birds.
A huge flock of Starlings moved back and forth in the treetops.
A huge flock of gulls (mostly Ring-Billed, with one Herring) hung out on the sandy beach - except when they were attacking the bread-throwers.
A couple of dozen Mallards were busy butt-upping and cruising - except when they were attacking the bread-throwers.
Similarly the abundant Canada Geese.
Mute Swans - 5
Chickadees (mostly heard)
Crow - 1
No waders were seen.
We saw three busy muskrats preparing for winter, six small turtles sunning, and one squirrel. A lovely red dragonfly landed on my leg - too close for my lens - and left before Judy could get a pic.
It was fun! Much more interesting than the last time we went there - a drab day - a couple of weeks ago. Maybe birds know when it is a weekend and bread-feeders might come? Maybe the warm weather?

Yes, I know about feeding bread to birds. We do not. It is a recent thing after learning that it is not really good for them. Yet, I am not sure I will ever tell someone not to do it. I fondly remember times as a very young child with my mother when we fed ducks at a lake near Chicago. Much later, I became a biologist. I just have to wonder if the early exposure to "life" had anything to do with it. I noticed there were at least half a dozen empty bread bags in the open trash can at the parking lot. I can only wonder about the kids who might have experienced something impressive!

Certainly it might make it much harder to become a duck hunter after such an exposure. For example, Judy and I were at Metro Beach recently and were going to try to get thru the Phragmites into the marsh area by the day-sail area. We soon learned that duck hunters were in the area. Yes, just like Allen mentioned in his Guide to Michigan birding localities, we might have seen a new duck for us become someone's dinner.
The one hunter we spoke with was obviously far more knowledgeble and more concerned with the conservation of the resource than the majority of the (voting) public. And he certainly knew his ducks better than I do at present. With the exception of "day-trippers", I have always found hunters (like most fishermen) to be very concerned with the health of wildlife populations. I know that overall hunters and fishermen are far more active and influencial (minimally through sheer numbers, but also through active environmentalism) and concerned with protecting our natural resources than most!
Personally I like duck on a menu. I would not want to eat a "lifer", but on a menu "duck" is quite tasty! It is just meat, not a pet! (Of course these are cultivated ducks...)

Oops, I ramble. Be not deterred - another more "birdy" ramble is coming up!

2009-11-13 Holland Ponds, Macomb Co, MI 2:00- 3:00 pm. Overcast.

It has been interesting on our last couple of visits to Holland Ponds to see the dramatic change of seasons! We sort of "adopted" Holland Ponds this year as a favorite place to visit after we watched the Great Blue Herons nest, mate, feed and send the kids off earlier this year. It is important to see a specific site go through an annual cycle to really appreciate it, and gain a bit of understanding! We return there often, listing all the birds and other "critters" we see. Recently it has been mostly "boring" and dreary on cool cloudy days!
Gone are most of the exciting things we witnessed this spring and summer. Gone are most of the birds we could count on seeing at specific localities within the park. Gone are the leaves - now we can see through the underbrush and trees. (Cool!!! Now we can see more birds - whoever is still there - and take better pics!)
It seems very barren - almost looks "bombed out" due to the abundance of barren and dead trees (Yes the same dead trees that are so attractive as food and nesting sites to the birds we want to see !!!).
Yet this day was another great day to be outdoors!
We saw the muskrat observed earlier this year working on his house.

We saw some good birds:
At Waterfowl Pond, we first heard and then saw a male Belted Kingfisher. He was kind enough to perch briefly for a distant pic. The Kingfisher is one of our favorite birds! We know his rattle! He is spooky, but shows himself fairly well even at a distance because he is larger than many birds. He fascinates us with his behavior! We have been so lucky this year to see him many times!

Belted Kingfisher at Holland Ponds:

There were lots of Mallards (most abundant bird) in several places - it is always fun to listen to them "quack" - it sounds like laughter! "Quaha, ha, ha!" We always laugh back at them and they usually respond.(Hey, if you thought paper dolls were funny, just imagine a couple of seniors laughing with ducks!)
Blue Jays
Downy Woodpecker.  Hey! I just have to include a great pic:

Downy Woodpecker in flight!

Mourning Dove (only one)
Red-tailed Hawk (flying - apparently feeding - dropped down over a hill and never arose in view)
Cardinal (only one)
No Canada Geese! (Interesting because they are so abundant in spring - nesting, fighting, making a tremendous racket!).
And a special treat! A Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler female:

And, hence the point of the next "ramble".
As you "locals" know, the Detroit Free Press does not deliver a Saturday paper - a void between the Thursday, Friday, and Sunday papers. (Disappointing- as is the new deal of not supplying a weekly TV guide with a regular paid subscription.)

Yet, Saturday was far enhanced without the mediocre newsprint. To accompany my morning coffee I picked up the book "Birds of Detroit" co-authored by Allen Chartier to see what he might show about the bird I was having trouble identifying - the Yellow-rumped Warbler. The illustration in Fisher and Chartier's book was "spot on"! It was a much better match for what I had photographed than the Nat. Geog., Audubon, or Peterson I use "downstairs". (I use Sibley "upstairs" to compare with my pics...yet Allen's illustration was still better!) The bird had a gray body with two white wingbars, a white throat, yellow armpits and a lightly streaked breast. Got it! A female YRW! Excellent illustration! In looking at my other pics later I did find the yellow rump to confirm.

Am I done? No. The point here is that after reading the YRW page, I just could not put the book down until I read it cover to cover - every page, every word! I was truly amazed! I think I had previously treated the book like the rest of my bird identification books - show me a picture - is this my bird? I finally took the time to really read it!
The "Birds of Detroit" is so much more! It is a "ramble" to which I can only aspire. It is not only reasonably  comprehensive (not all species are included) but it is also almost "poetic". (I am sure the full comprehensiveness was only due to lack of space). Poetic indeed! It is a "great read". By far it exceeds any newspaper! I never imagined I could actually read a "bird-per-page" book with the same attention as a novel!  What's the "story"? Every page told a story! Every page suggested more ahead!  It "made my day"! It tells a story about each bird. It shows when you might expect them in the Detroit area and where you might find them. It tells of their lives and loves. It suggests the best way to "talk to" them. It truly shows the knowledge and love for birds you would expect from Allen! And Allen and his co-author say it so well!!! (Yes, I attribute this all to Allen even though Chris Fisher is the lead author, yet knowing Allen,  I presume his influence and guidance were paramount!). It made my day!

So there! You just had a "double ramble" from Dr. Bob's recent week! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did in recalling and recounting my memories!

Comments appreciated here or at

Enjoy your outdoor experiences! Go "bird"!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

29 October 2009 - Robert Long and Kensington Metro Park

29 October 2009 - Robert Long and Kensington Metro Park

I learned this morning that I had not been selected for a job I thought was a perfect fit. Oh well... When life hands you bird seed, go feed some birds! There must be a reason for everything. I was pleased to discover that the answer would soon be in the palms of my hands once again!

Robert Long (12:00 - 1:00 pm):
Judy and I dropped by Robert Long Nature Park enroute to Kensington MP. It was cold, dreary and overcast. The heavy morning fog was still burning off. Not too interesting today.

Ring-billed gulls - a flock
Canada Geese
Killdeer (1)
Wood Ducks (2)
Mute Swans (5)
Great Egret (1)
Chickadee (H)
Downy Woodpecker

Kensington MP (1:30 - 4:30 pm):
This was our primary destination. Judy wanted to visit her "friends". The fog was still burning off. Overcast until about 4 pm when we were starting to leave. High 50's.

We had fun again hand-feeding the birds. Actually, we had the "big four" species that are likely to hand-feed here. The first encounter came as we walked back from the boardwalk over the lake. A female Downy Woodpecker landed on a branch near us. Almost immediately a male flew in to have a discussion with her. I figured that they might be "fighting over me" (yes, I know it is ego-centric) and reached in my pocket for some seeds. The male flew off, but the female immediately landed on my outstretched hand to feed. She spent a fairly long time there so Judy could get a few pics. Wow! I was impressed, and Judy was almost in tears! She caught the moment! What a gift!!!

On another trail, we were hand-feeding birds and taking pics. A couple respectfully paused (outdoors people are so cool!) and we waved them to come thru. The birds never lost interest. The woman said she had never seen or had done that, and was amazed that a Titmouse would come to a hand. OK. Here's a handful of seeds. "No, I couldn't". "Yes you can. We have lots of seeds". Out went her hand with seeds; up went this amazing smile as a Titmouse alighted! Another gift had been given to us by sharing!

Much later, after walking the trails, we found a bench where it was apparent that people had fed the birds before, and sat down. Immediately our feathered friends came to us. Another Downy fed from my hand - this hungry gal downed probably 12 seeds before flying off!

Yet, the most remarkable here was a White-breasted Nuthatch! A few times before we had seen them coming to branches near where we were hand-feeding chickadees and titmice, they appeared interested, but they would never come to our hands. They waited until we left, then would feed on the seeds the other birds had knocked out of our hands onto the ground. At the bench, the Nuthatch landed on the back of the bench. I slowly moved my hand closer and closer until my hand touched the bench directly under the Nuthatch, at which time he moved in for a seed. He never really alighted on my hand, but I am going to count this anyway! What a treat!

It set me to thinking about a new question. I know Nuthatches "walk upside down" on trees, and I think it must be because of that special back toe. It seems longer and with a sharper toenail than other birds. I think they are more comfortable picking seeds below them. I wondered if maybe a hand does not give the right "landing" for them. Then I started wondering if somehow the bird's "hind-toe" is analogous to the human thumb. (And so on ...). Questions - always questions! Another time ...

Anyway, enjoy the pics! We have been truly blessed! Walk (and move softly), and carry a bag of seeds (and maybe a big stick for Nuthatches to land on?). Extend your hands to others! They will come to you!

Species list:
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Bluebirds (many) - I was surprised, but the naturalist said many over-winter there
Mute Swans
Great Egret (1)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (H)
Bluejay (H)
American Crow (H)
Cardinal (2)
Red-winged Blackbirds (several)
White-breasted Nuthatch (6)

October Catchup - Miscellaneous

Geez! It is hard keeping up a blog! I just tend to keep "doing" and not "posting".

This is for those October bird things I did not note separately. (to be added incrementally...)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2009-10-21 Kensington Metro Park - Another treasured day!

2009-10-21 Kensington Metro Park
Temperature in high 60's, sun to overcast, light wind.

Judy and I went to Kensington yesterday to visit the friendly “birds in hand” (see earlier blog). It was a wonderful day for weather and a good time was had by all (us and the birds). We managed to have many Tufted Titmice (another first!!!) feed from our hands as well as numerous chickadees. Wow!!! We almost had a White-breasted Nuthatch as well – two were certainly interested though reluctant!

The species list follows.  I note for birders that the most interesting observations were lots of Eastern Bluebirds and several Sandhill Cranes.

The Bluebirds were seen in four different localities. In one place there were at least 6 flitting around the trees mid-level (eating bugs?). I am always astounded about seeing “rare” (for me) birds. In 15 years in Michigan, I had only seen one bluebird before this year. Now this year (maybe it is from being on the "birder’s list" and hearing daily about bird sightings? – or maybe I should just “get out more”?), I have watched bluebirds nest at Holland Ponds and even taken some very good pics. Yet, I have never seen as many as at Kensington yesterday! Wonderful!!!

We saw a couple of Sandhill Cranes “grazing” on a lawn as we drove around the park. Then we were disappointed to not see them at the Nature Center as expected (they are "Judy friends"), but finished the day by seeing four in Wildwing Lake. Hey, they actually were wading! One might expect that from a long-legged bird, but I already had a “mindset” – Sandhills are "land grazers”. However, as near as I could tell, they were not fishing like a normal wader, but rather standing in the water eating vegetation along the edges of the lake. OK, fine! They are still "land grazers" - just sometimes they stand in water. They were also bathing, preening, and just enjoying a beautiful day as were we!
I am always learning and amazed!

Species list:
American Goldfinches (lots)
Red-winged Blackbirds(lots)
Eastern Bluebirds (lots)
Black-capped Chickadees (lots)
Tufted Titmice (lots)
White-breasted Nuthatches (several)
American Crows (several)
Great Egret (1)
Great Blue Heron (2)
Sandhill Cranes (6)
Mallards (several)
Wood Ducks (one flying flock - 8 individuals)
Mute Swans (lots around the lake - none at nature center area)
Blue Jays (uncommon)
Downy Woodpeckers (uncommon)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (heard several)
possible Red-Headed Woodpecker (heard - "barks" differently then the Red-bellied)

And, other observations:
Snapping Turtle - in the middle of the path taking his time to "cross the road"! He was quite a hit for us and for several goups behind us - especially the kids!
"Red-dotted" turtle (the turtle with red dots at edges of carapace - I forgot his name)
Chipmunks of course (but interestingly not pestering us around nature center - I guess they are busy foraging and hiding seeds for winter)
Red squirrels (mostly eating nuts)
Gray squirrels (mostly the gray colorations)
And, a couple of deer as we left the park

Another wonderful day! It is just so special to be outdoors in Nature on a perfect Fall weather day (knowing what comes next), and then to have God's creatures literally eating out of our hands!!! In our experience around our home, titmice are fairly spooky - or at least they are so quick to come to feeders and leave - that we rarely ever even get a good photo. To have them land on our hands, and then to have them take their time to sort through the seeds in our palms while we watched is utterly incredible!!! In many cases both chickadees and titmice would pick up and discard 4 to 5 seeds before choosing the one they wanted. And all the while the "feeder" was transfixed with the moment, and the "shooter" was clicking away. Judy and I took turns having the experience of lighter-than-air Life in the palms of our hands. It was not a "quick in and out" - it was a time to understand each other. We - birds and us - were unafraid.

For you "locals", I cannot recommend the experience strongly enough! (And, it is "legal" according to Kensington MP rules - specifically hand feeding of songbirds is acceptable! But, please do not feed any other wildlife!!!).

We met a couple walking the trail who had been taken there before and hand-fed the birds "28 years ago" and have never forgotten the experience! What a wonderful way to instill a love of Nature in your children! And, hey (!), it also works wonders for elders! Imagine treating your parents to the experience of intimately sharing Nature!!! We met people in wheelchairs, and people walking with canes. We also met "youngsters" with "tats" and rings. We met a multi-generational family - grandparents, their kids, and the kid's kids. (We later saw them feeding the birds at a different location). We were willing to share seeds with any of the people we met to just witness their joy and expressions. They all knew about the birds already! No wonder they keep coming back! (Yes, Judy and I are "newbies"!).

And they were all respectful and waited until we told them it was OK to pass (amazing in itself - that is what an experience in Nature teaches you - respect!), and yet, the birds did not care!  There were several occasions where we said to come on through, and even while people were passing, the birds flew onto the immediate trees and waited until we opened our hands. It was just so amazing to us that we could even carry on a conversation between ourselves, and even with the passers-by and the birds still came to our out-stretched hands.

I am sure this is a very unique place in the universe, and has been for many bird generations (and obviously for a few people generations as well)! I had one little chickadee land on a railing next to me, yet he would not come to my hand. I slowly moved my hand toward the bird, until my hand touched the railing. The bird quickly grabbed a seed and took off. Next year, the bird will be more unafraid and be among those "birds in hand"!

Always (please, please, please!!!) respect Nature, and the gifts that are available when all of us respect them! It really takes little to trash something wonderful!

And, given that admonishment, please DO share this experience with your elders and your children! Truly, the "bird-in-hand gift" is one of the best gifts Judy and I have ever been given! I am sharing our experience with you so that you may, in turn, share it with your loved ones.

I do not believe the hand-feeding is seasonal. It is probably especially important for the resident birds in winter, but obviously it is available whenever you need a "reality fix" or want to share a gift with a loved one. (I can imagine a birthday card with a "coupon" for a day at the Kensington Nature Center! Take a special lunch for a picnic afterwards).

I will love hearing from you about your experiences. If you want to share your comments with others, please comment on this blog. Else, please write me direct at:

Enjoy the gifts that are given. Enjoy birds. Enjoy your Life! Each day is special!!!
"Dr. Bob"

Catchup 2009-10

Another placeholder. Gee, it is hard keeping up a blog!

This is for places we went twixt then and now.

I am just compulsive enough I need to keep things in order.

I have my field notes and just need to add them. Yes, I am trying to put my field notes here - probably for myself more than even for sharing - yet I am also pleased some of you want to see my "ramblings"!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's a TV Zoo out there!

Yesterday we started off to Kensington to spend more personal time with "Judy's Birds" and the radio told of the traffic in the area, so we detoured down Woodward to the Detroit Zoo. Judy has been pestering me to go there as well. It has been several years. We were happy to see most animals "out and about" and took quite a few pics of mammals and so on. Yet, it was also very interesting to see the "zoo birds" through our new "birding eyes". What fascinating creatures!

I think the most fascinating for birding was to see many local Turkey Vultures (TV) flying into and around the enclosures - especially the enclosure with the exotic vultures. I suspect they might have been migrants (reference the huge migrating TV day at LEMP on that day!) and the migrants probably were as fascinated as we were by the weird relatives they saw below. At least two dozen local TVs were seen! I caught some great pics of them flying in - the only problem was that with my tele, I rarely seemed to get a full shot - they were that close! (Ah, yes, I remember the time I went whale watching in southern California and had a telephoto lens that proved quite useless when the whales surfaced almost under the boat, ... but that is another story!).

Anyway, after seeing and photographing the exotic vultures, I had to go learn more about these creatures!
I will post pics to my PBase site and share the link here when done. As always, learning is about asking questions! I shot the placards at the zoo to try to get their names right, but had to go Wiki to see if I could verify and find more info.

Anyway, it was really amazing to have my first "up close and personal" encounter with the local Turkey Vultures I had mostly only seen/shot previously as "contrasts in the sky"! They seemed to come right at me!

For now I am posting a few pics of the "locals". These pics alone were enough reason to go to the Detroit Zoo yesterday!

"It's All Happening at the Zoo"! (S and G) [Oh, for my seaweed friends I am not talking Setchell and Gardner here - rather Simon and Garfunkle].


More rambles and pics later - just starting this...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My scientist finds my internal God again with birds

For my friends and birders:

I do not want to delve too deeply into the seemingly dichotomous discussion between religion and science. I have always been the "scientist" and fully believe in evolution and the teachings of science. I also was raised by parents who hauled me off to church each Sunday, and I remember and practice lessons of the church. Without going "too religious" here, I believe that the basic teachings of most religions in the USA encompass the Ten Commandments and the "Golden Rule". I just wish people today would take the time to slow down from their immediate lives and remember what I hope they were exposed to as children, and to remember it is their job to expose their own kids to our sacred and moral values! The values are not on the cell phone or TV or a gaming device that receives Internet! The values (code of ethics and beliefs) should not primarily be from their peers! It is the nuclear family (read: Parents!) that must pass on the values of our society to their own family. The nuclear values will help your kids live a "better life" - whatever that means - and you will certainly help them succeed in life by not only giving them values, but also by living the values you teach!

Following church, we often went to explore the beaches or woods around the San Francisco Bay area - bringing a much broader world ("Nature") into the context of the day. Not only are "church values" important, but the values that come from an appreciation of "Nature" are essential for a fully grounded fulfilling human experience .

Hey! Even if your kids become a scientist like myself, they still might wonder about (and ask about, and study...) the origin of the "Wonders of Nature". I feel comfortable with my seeming dichotomy. As a scientist, I could (given time...) document the world back to the "Big Bang", yet I will always wonder ( awe and true wonder!) who provided the "combustibles" and "lit the fuse"!!! Yes, I see no real dichotomy between religion and science! We must appreciate the teachings of science! Our lives, our health, our environment, and our futures are based on science! We must support, fund and believe in scientific accomplishments!

Yet, we also should not ever dismiss the possibility of a "grander scheme", and certainly we must not ever fail to remember the teachings from our childhood that basically set the stage for us to be fully functional, caring, and productive adults with a destination beyond our immediate selves!  (And that applies equally to religion and science!)

Thus - having "set the stage" by describing my internal apparent conflict, I return to birding!

I took Judy to Kensington Metro Park today. I wanted to wait for Saturday when a local birding chapter was going there, but the weather looked "iffy" for Saturday and we are "fair weather birders" (largely because we want to take our cameras). Judy has been pestering me to go back there ever since she saw the Sandhill Cranes "up close and personal". (... and, yes, we saw them again today! Really cool birds!). I have waited. Anyway, today was a such a great wonderful early fall day in Michigan, I just could not sit at home! So we went! My "story" follows. There are few things in life that I could ever buy or do that would compare with my decision! I attach a couple of pics that were worth the trip, yet they represent a very minute statement about our experience.

I need to note that I "just happened to have" a small sandwich bag of the best bird seed (oilers, peanuts, shelled sunflower seeds,etc.) in my pocket. I do not normally advocate feeding birds in natural aeas and respect the need to post and enforce feeding restrictions (because the general public does not understand and feeds preserved, salted "packaged crap" if allowed - really, it harms the birds!). Done. Enough with "disclaimers". On with "the story" I have been waiting to tell. My story today expresses great joy. It also led me to consider again  - and helped resolve - my feelings about my internal beliefs as I have noted. Whew!
There is nothing in my vocabularly to describe the experience of having a representative of God's Nature land on your hand! Today, Judy had her first experience and I had only my second with an "outside" bird landing on our hands. While walking in the Kensington forest, we saw chickadee activity and "pished" while holding out our hands with bird seed. The chickadees responded!  They alighted and fed from our hands!

The chickadees are essentially weightless! If you were blindfolded, you would not even notice their presence other than possibly a slight tap as they plucked a seed.

Judy experiences a Chickadee!

We normally see birds as "things". We photograph them. We describe them. We study them. We sometimes even think we know them. We love them deeply, yet we hardly ever have a more personal relationship with them!

Yet, if you are in the right place, and fill your hand with good seeds, and extend your arm, you may just experience life as you have never studied it or known it before!

The experience is to feel no weight, yet to be intimately face to face with one of God's creations literally in the palm of your hand! You look each other in the eye! You share the experience of giving and receiving! (And, I note - who is really the giving party? Certainly we received far more than we gave!)

This is an entirely new side of Nature for even an experienced biologist and photographer such as myself! I was truly overwhelmed, and hence sharing tonight. I did it for Judy so she could learn some of my appreciation of Nature (I thought there was a good chance it might happen at that location known for hand-feeding, and it had happened once before ...), yet my personal rewards were far more than I had anticipated.

Yes, we snapped a few pics. Yet the pics and words cannot describe the brief moments we shared with the birds. These memories and our feelings of the experience will far outlive so many other memories of our lives! What an experience! And, truly inspirational!

I feel like I may have not described it well. Yet, until you have the expeience of having a "lighter than air living being" land on your hand you will not really know of what I speak!

Scientist: Chickadees came to our outstretched hands when we "pished" (a sound) at them with hands outstretched with good food. They are apparently accustomed to this here. It was expected.

Person: Blessed be the feathered creatures of God's earth for they lack nary any weight or substance, yet they bring God's life to your palm and will give you memories, and with one visit will touch you and remind you of your place in the Universe and lift your hope and spirits forever! My emotional reaction surprised me!

I really have no better way to explain it!

As a side note, why did I try it anyway the first time? I saw a note from a SE Michigan birder (appropriately it was Joy!) and just happened to have a few sunflower seeds in my pocket when I walked the trails the first time we went there. Along the trail, I was accosted by two chickadees who seemed to demand something from me. I fished my pocket, held out my hand, and they came to me and I briefly fed. I quickly came to believe! I wanted to share this with Judy today and wound up not only with her new experience, but an entirely new insight into myself!!

Yes, I believe! (all of the above...) I have no conflict! This experience reinforced the fact I do not need to "pick one" (science vs. religion). I wanted to share this. I hope you appreciate that fact there is really no dichotomy! And, I hope you continue to enjoy the richness of life your teachings and experiences provide to you!

"Dr. Bob"

2009 September Catchup

I guess I have been "doing" rather than "telling". I am dropping a placeholder here to tell of our wonderful September experiences. They will come to the blog. Really, they will! For now I just need to move on. Maybe I will get better as I "do" less and become more house-bound. But the weather may give me time to catchup! (Or mustard up the stories I have yet to tell...)

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009-09-07 Robert H. Long Nature Park

2009-09-07 Robert H. Long Nature Park 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
I am still working on pics and ID confirmations. We dropped by for a quick walkthru on our way to the free day at Henry Ford Museum.

Species list:
Mute Swans
Canada Geese
Great Blue Heron
Double-crested Cormorants
American Goldfinch
Chickadee (H)
Pied-billed Grebe
Least Sandpiper
Wood Ducks
Belted Kingfisher (H)
Warbling vireo ? (H)
Ring-Billed Gulls
Green Herons (I will have a question about this when I process my pics. We shot a "dinky one" (slightly larger than a RWBB?) fishing quite close to us, and a larger standing one in the middle of the lake - same???) I really think they are both Green Herons.

2009-09-01 Robert H. Long Nature Park

2009-09-01 Robert H. Long Nature Park
I am rather late in posting the species we saw there, then. And I still have pics to process, and IDs to check, but I need to get this out there before I post something more recent!

Species list:
Blue Gray Gnatcatcher?
American Goldfinch
Gulls (prob. Ring-Billed)
Canada Geese
Great Blue Herons
Mute Swans
Chickadees (H)
Great Egrets
Northern Flicker
Warbling Vireo (thanks Darrin!)
American Widgeon (thanks, Darrin!)
Pied-Billed Grebe
Cedar Waxwings
Turkey Vulture
Wood Ducks
Eastern Kingbird
Flycatcher sp. ?
and Judy shot a Black-Crowned Night Heron ?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ever watch a hummingbird sleep? A self portrait in a hummingbird's eye!!!

I just shared this post with my birding friends on an e-mail server. I want to share it on my blog! Posting follows:

I had just an enchanted experience today I want to share. (This one’s especially for Allen Chartier – an especially fine birding mentor and hummingbird specialist!!!).

These are pics from our place. I shot a few pics through the sliding door (as usual) of a hummingbird at my feeder, and then wondered if I could go out and shoot some closer. The cutie just hung around!!! It moved off the feeder and sat on a branch in the immediate garden by the deck for awhile while I walked off the deck and took a few pics, then went back to the feeder where it stayed for a very long time! At one point I was able to get within 4 feet of her! I shot over 200 pics overall. (Hey! Shoot lots – some might turn out!).

When I was processing my pics, I was overjoyed to see I had gotten a pic of the eyelid covering the eye! (Q: How fast can a hummingbird blink??? Whew, I thought!). OK, I never even realized hummingbirds had eyelids! As I looked at more pics, I found I had about a dozen showing the eyelid closed or mostly closed, and many more with the eye “squinting”. I just now came up with the hypothesis that I was fortunate enough to watch a hummingbird sleep!!!

I offer this as a possible explanation of why I was able to be so close for so long. Maybe birdie sleeping is an “off and on” thing where they catch a “cat nap” (birdie nap) for a few fractional seconds, but remain entirely cognizant of their surroundings at all times. (Yes, it’s another “Dr. Bob question”!)

Whatever the case, this is a day I will remember forever! Maybe it was because I was wearing my totally red t-shirt (hummingbirds like red!)? And, maybe “it was just my time” to really experience something truly wondrous (“Thanks be…!”).

I am saying “she” because of the white tips on the tail feathers, but looking at Sibley’s book, I think it might be a “sub-adult male” due to the speckled throat markings.

During the hour or so I was watching the feeder activity from inside, periodically another hummer (in one case two at the same time) would fly by and the bird on the feeder would fly off with the other bird. Shortly a bird (same bird?) returned to the feeder. It is hard to say who followed whom – fast little things! I wonder now if a parent was just “checking up on” the kid.

Just to put the finishing touch on a totally wonderful experience, immediately as I noticed the bird had left the feeder, I felt a “rustling” in my hair, and reached up to brush it away. I looked back to the feeder, and the bird was gone. I realized I had been visited by the very bird I had been observing up close and personal for more than 15 minutes! I will always wonder about her sentiment - brief as it was …

Oh, such great joy and wonder!!! Something to share!

Pics are on my PBase site: (I think you might have to copy and paste this URL into your web browser...)

P.S., I was processing one more pic before I posted them. Geez! It just became even more wonderful (I think…)! Now, follow along with me (OK, so I am “going weird” here… but I think it might be true – I ask photographers to please comment…). In the 9552 pic on PBase (please refer to all 3 pics of this number series here!), I enlarged it to show the wonderful eye of the hummingbird. Then I wondered about the color and enlarged it once again. Given the rounded nature of the eyeball, I believe the lower red part is a reflection from the feeder below. And, the upper white part is the reflection of the sky above. Given that this is true, and that I was standing about 4 feet away on that side and a bit higher, then the black spot in the middle of the white area must be me! Is this really right? Did I really shoot a self-portrait in the eye of a hummingbird??? (!!!)

OK, so now that I have lost most of you, I just hope you will enjoy the pics!!! Whew! What an encounter!

I wish you all can have the joy that birding has given me! Each encounter is a true treasure!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Another Long day

2009-08-21: 12:20 am - 2:15 pm

I thought I finally had the Black-Crowned Night Heron. I shot lots of pics, then on review found I had only a Great Blue Heron that was sleeping among some logs. His neck was tucked in, and the reflections of the vegetation made his legs look yellow. Oh well... My eyes are very sensitive to bright sunlight now and I find I am having a harder time distinguishing distant birds through the camera. It' s great to have digital "film"! Delete, delete!

Anyway, we saw at least three species of sandpipers, and our first hummingbird at RH Long. We did not see the Red-Headed Woodpecker today.

I was truly amazed to see what a Wood Duck had under its wings! I think this was the time we have ever seen a Wood Duck with open wings. Much more complex and interesting than Mallards I think. (Is this why they do not spread their wings more...? It is just too much for anyone to handle!)

More pics later...

Species list:
Black-Ringed Gull (few)
Great Egrets
Canada Geese (many fewer than usual)
Double-Crested Cormorants (more than usual)
Goldfinch (uncommon)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (one - visiting flowers on "thistle dike")
Chickadee (H)
Kingfishers (saw one- heard many)
Cedar Waxwings
Mourning Doves
Cowbirds (lots on one tree only)
Barn Swallows
Killdeer (lots)
Hawk (sp.)
Turkey Vulture
Great Blue Heron
Least (Semi-Palmated?) Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper
(I will post "piper" pics on my PBase for ID help!)

Eastern Painted Turtle "crossing the road" (answer: to be with his friends on the other side...)
and a lovely Viceroy butterfly (thanks for ID, Don!) on the "thistle dike" - Say, why is there a semi-transparent covering around the main body? Is this normal and I never noticed it?

The "dog guy" was there when we arrived, so I am sure it made a difference in our normal "walk-around" before we retired to the picnic pavilion for lunch and scoping.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Great Green Heron Day at Holland Ponds! Wow!!!

2009-08-19 Holland Ponds
9:20 am - 10:45 am
It was indeed a "Great Green Heron Day" at Holland Ponds!!!
The day was great (!) - it is not the name of the bird.

Because of time limitations today, we stayed closer to home and did not go to Robert H. Long Park to see birds. We are so happy that we did! We have not been to Holland Ponds for some time - ever since "the kids" left (think Great Blue Herons here).

I guess that is another of the considerations with this "birding thing" - we want to see new species (like the Red-Headed Woodpecker that drew us to Robert Long Park, and the shorebirds arriving now). Yet, we have probably missed so much in our "own backyard". What a dilemma! Should we "be true" and document the seasonal differences at one park, or should we roam to get a few more checks on our list? I am sure many birders face this!

Anyway, today was the perfect day to go to Holland Ponds! Shortly after we arrived, we saw a Green Heron sitting near a tree top. Cool! Judy's first - my second! But the day became even much better in quick order! Overall, I would guess we had at least a half hour observing Green Herons! They were not very spooky, and allowed us to watch and carry on a conversation (mostly "wow" and "did you see that?") and take dozens of photos of the birds fairly close to us.
And we had a chance to watch the behaviour.
The most interesting thing to me was watching the birds feed. Instead of having the "S-bend" necks of Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets, and striking like a snake, the Green Herons have a "Slinky neck" and just unload it like a spring under tension! You cannot really tell from looking at them that their neck is so long. It looks much fatter than the afore-mentioned birds, but who would know how long it reaches! A Slinky spring waiting to be sprung! And, I might add, it is damn hard to catch it in action! This pic was just good luck!
It has seemed everyone sees them except us - both at Long, and occasionally at Holland. Well, today made up for it - big time! What a thrill! We saw at least one adult and three juveniles.

The overall species count was not as good as in prior trips to Holland, or as good as at Long last week, but we cared not a whit! And we saw some juveniles of other birds in "our place" (now I feel guilty I have not been documenting this site more recently).

I will put pics on my PBase site, and have dropped a few into this blog.

What fun!!!
Species list:

Red-Winged Blackbirds
Mourning Doves
Blue Jays (a few - mostly heard)
Mallards (with juveniles)
Great Egret (3)
Great Blue Heron (one fly-over)
Kingfishers (at least 2)
Catbird (H)
Cedar Waxwings (a few)
Eastern Kingbird (a few)
Eastern Bluebird (juvenile)
Downy Woodpecker

Plus we heard at least 4 species I did not know - 2 were new, I think

Friday, August 14, 2009

Robert H. Long Nature Park

Another "Long" Day! It was a Red-Headed Woodpecker and Sandpiper Day!

We walked around from 9:45-11:15 am, then retired to the picnic shelter where we set up the new scope. On arrival, we saw only Killdeer. Within the next hour and a half, three different sandpipers came in. It is just so cool to see the birds thru a scope!!! And, we did some "digiscoping". Learning, we are ...

We also had a great view and took pics of a muskrat who swam under the bridge just as we got there, then crawled out the other side right below us! Really cool!

Species list:

Red-Headed Woodpeckers (!) Our best day so far! We even saw two at the same time!
The woodpeckers sat on snags in the rear "drowned-log pond" near the metal bench. A couple of times they flew down onto the logs in the pond, but they were too far away to tell what they were doing - feeding presumably.

Canada Geese
Great Egret
Double-Crested Cormorants
Wood Ducks (seemed like more than usual, but maybe they were hidden before)
Mute Swans
Cedar Waxwings
Red-Winged Blackbirds
Spotted Sandpipers (one by bridge, another by picnic pavilion)
Mourning Doves
Ring-Billed Gulls (only 6 - but more than last time)
Barn Swallows
Eastern Kingbird (or what w/o white tail tip?) (pic to be posted...)
Starlings (rare)
Sparrow with spot on breast - is this a Savannah Sparrow with the notched tail and no obvious yellow, or a Song Sparrow, or what? On the beach by the picnic pavilion, we also saw:

Killdeer (lots)
Pectoral Sandpipers (2) (new !)
Least Sandpipers (2) (new !)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Robert H. Long - a "red headed" day and an Elvis Cormorant

2009-08-12 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Robert H. Long Nature Park

Species list:
Canada Geese
Pied-Billed Grebes
Great Egrets
Mute Swans
Double-Crested Cormorants
Wood Ducks (more than usual)
Red-Winged Blackbirds
Catbird (heard)
Barn Swallows
Red-Headed Woodpecker (!)
Cardinal (heard)
Ring-billed Gull (rare!)
Spotted Sandpiper
Cedar Waxwing
Sparrow with convergent breast spot (ID TBD)

The Red-Headed Woodpecker was wonderful! I think our best pics so far. I need to post a few more.

It was also interesting to process a cormorant pic that I thought looked like Elvis! Well, actually, I guess it is not so hard. There are so many poor Elvis impersonators, that anyone with a pomped-up hairdo might look like this!

I will probably add more pics later, but even if I do not, you have the species list.

A "Long" day - first digiscoping experiment and a Great Egret on crutches!

Judy and I went to Robert Long Nature Park today. Here is a pic of the mudflat from the picnic pavilion to set the stage for this story. Here is pic of the mudflat at the max 3x optical zoom with my Nikon point and shoot camera. The pics after this one are "digiscoped"!

I will relay our "adventure" soon - it was another "Red-Head Day"(!). For now, I am just working on pics from our "new toy". We now have a "birding scope"! (Thank you, thank you, thank you most wonderful anonymous basement-clearing and appropriately-recycling birder!!! Yes, you have already made a huge difference in our lives!)

We took our normal two hour walk with cameras, then went back to the car and picked up the scope and the bag with a field guide (I love the new Nat Geog guide!), our lunch, and other goodies.

We went to the picnic shelter and set up the scope. Overly expectant (same darn thing seems to happen when we play the Megamillions lottery!), we were disappointed to see that the normally bustling mudflat held only Killdeer! No gulls, no "peeps". Yet (!), we saw our first "red-eyed killdeer" (Wow, a scope really makes a difference!!! Who would have thought?! They are pretty cool in just black and white contrast!) It is just amazing what you see "up close and personal" thru a scope!

Anyway, after lunch, a few more birds were available for our "test flight" with the scope. We focussed on a Great Blue Heron and three Great Egrets all the way (75 - 100 yards?) across the pond. (We could not even see the Heron without the scope!) On the closer mudflat, we got really up close and personal with Killdeer. We also saw (only one) Spotted Sandpiper on the mudflat. (I am confident - no need to post a fuzzy pic and question my birder friends!).

It was not a totally exciting day for most birders I imagine, but it was certainly wonderful for us! Wow!

I have interspersed a few of the pics I took ("digiscoped" - cool! Great word and concept! I did it!) today in this blog. I have learned from reading Jerry Jourdan's notes that you need a "small" "point and shoot" camera to digiscope, and I just happened to have one that I used when I was working at the Ren Cen to shoot Great Lakes ships along the Detroit River. Today was a "test flight". It is weird, but it seems to have worked. And, yes, our larger Kodak "point and shoots" and my Canon do not work. I suspect you need a "dinky hole" (think shutter aperature) on the camera to make it work. You still have to "wiggle it around a bit" to get something to focus thru the scope!

Hey! The pics are not the best, but they show characteristics I have not photographically recorded before. Probably more importantly, Judy was just amazed - not only by the fact we could really see "up close and personal" the birds just "doing" (mostly sitting and picking - but that is what sedentary birds seem to like to do), but also the fact we could actually take a picture of them thru the scope!

What fun!
Now, the "big finish"! Have you ever seen a Great Egret on crutches? Wow! Who rehabbed this bird? He is getting by just fine! By the way, "Stylurus" dropped by during lunch (and, it was another wonderful conversation!) and he can verify that I really had a field guide in my possession! (Yes, a first!)

"Dr. Bob"

p.s., Look out, Jerry! I have a new toy! (Hey, I am sure you will be the first to encourage me! And, I am sure I will be in touch with you for hints once I experiment a bit more... and have something intelligent to ask...)

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Taste of Crow

Here is a personal sharing. (Read on - there is something about birds in here somewhere...)

I am really an omnivore, but I tend toward the carnivore side of it. Maybe these days it is more PC among "outdoors people" (who tend to be more active and healthy?) to be vegans, but I still exercise my primal hunger! Veggies are great, but I would prefer to have my veggies "pre-processed", so I tend to eat those critters higher up the food chain!
I mostly "catch and release" my fish (when I actually fish - now mostly I fish with my camera...). Judy always wonders why I release table fare! (Well, it's complicated. It has to do with location, water temperature, and anticipated survival rates, although primarily it has to do with an experienced and anticipated taste for the "catch of the day" - but all that is another story...).

Tonight I had a good "taste"of crow. Sensu "eating crow", not the actual beast. I doubt I would really like to eat a crow, or a cormorant, or a seagull. These birds seem rather non-selective!

Yes, eating birds is fine (chickens and turkeys are good, and ducks and goosers even better, and probably the highly-priced squabs and pheasants would be even better yet). They are mostly vegetarians (as are cows, deer, and so on...)! So, it seems I might almost be tending towards a vegan (just "pre-processed"...)?
And, eating fish at all levels is fine. But, think for a moment - when was the last "vegetable" a fish ate? Mostly fish eat smaller fish ("big fish have little fish upon their backs to bite them, and little fish have lesser fish, and so on ad infinitum!") and or crustaceans (or - shudder - "bugs") that really ate the vegies. (Actually the same for other birds - we have watched many species of birds eat whatever unfortunate bug happened by! And, we will not even think about what a chicken or the afore-mentioned birds eat!)

Anyway, tonight I "ate crow"! And, I just need to tell the story!

I processed on the computer tonight a few photo disks from Judy's 12x Kodak camera. I was delighted with her great photos! Geez! She is getting good! It also made me somewhat sad, and quite frustrated! I am shooting a Canon, with a Canon lens, and more often that not, Judy's pics (using my former camera) were better than mine for the same birdie subjects at the same place!

I can taste it! - Crow! Yuk! No wonder they do not sell crow in the upscale markets next to the sushi! (Probably you Mid-westerners would not really appreciate the significance of this, but as a high school kid, I used to walk the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco where the shop windows showed tanks of live fish and caged birds (chickens). Fresh!!!
Anyway, I am dropping a few of Judy's pics here for your enjoyment, and I will "go back to the drawing board" (or camera book) to see if I can improve.

The main message I want to convey is that it really does not matter what camera you shoot! (Or whether you shoot a camera or use binoculars!) What matters is that you are learning (like Judy), getting "out", and observing.
Judy has fun! I have mostly more fun in sharing Judy's experiences than I do in taking photos myself! I have seen such great progress in the last year or two not only in the photographic skills of my wife, but also in her observational skills! She has learned (and enjoyed) so many birds without ever cracking a bird book! It is "just so cool"!!!
Oh, I do need to note: one reason I use my camera (instead of binocs) as a main attachment to my body when birding is a sharing thing! Judy and I can shoot/"see" the same thing at the same time and share at home. Usually one of us will get a decent pic. If not, at least we remember the time together.

Yesterday, we received a wonderful gift from one of the Michigan listing birders! An unused scope was sitting in a basement crying for attention, and the birder (so many thanks!!!) gave us a good price to get it back into circulation! (This is a follow-up to a prior note where a birding couple at Robert Long allowed us to look thru their scope at a Kingfisher and opened a new door for us. Birders are so wonderful and sharing!!!)
Now we will have another sharing option (but only between us at the moment) with the scope (as long as the silly things sit there long enough - and I think they will because we will be such a long way off!). It raises questions about naming what we see, but I guess one of our several field guides now will have to accompany us in the field.

I doubt I would like the taste of a real crow, but "this crow" I am proud to eat!
Enjoy Judy's pics!
(Now, back to my camera book...)

BTW: Crows are really very smart! (you already knew that!) Even a couple of years ago (before we were birding), Judy saw some activity and just sat in a parking lot and just watched a crow hiding food in the parking lot island. The crow brought bread, then covered it up. More than once! I was fascinated to hear her recount of her observations! (I still doubt crows taste very good, however...)

Oh, another note - as I post this on the Google blogspot, it has become apparent to me that Google translates my ramblings into html code as I click "post". So, if (when?) I really want to get good wih my postings, I will need to learn yet another "new trick". OK! It keeps my brain active! Yet, if you do not want to post pics (not really too hard! I did it the first tme!) or "extras" (which I cannot do...), a blog seems a good way to "ramble" in any case! Try it - and please share it! (I learned about blogging from other birders! Thank you all!)

And, please note that each blog has a place to add comments following the blog. Any comments? Anyone "home"?
"Dr. Bob"