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"

Friday, August 7, 2009

Justification for Digital vs. Mental Birding Recollection

Note: I composed this for a special e-mailing list server on birding. I also want to share it with my birding blogger friends.

Today Judy and I met a couple birders using a scope at Robert Long Park. While we were talking (and they pointed me at a Spotted Sandpiper I had missed), I mentioned that I normally shoot first and look the pics later on the computer with bird books in hand. The woman then asked, "Is your name Bob?” I replied, “Yes it is”!

Yes, I know! If I can be recognized by my habit, I must be rather different in the birding world. Many of you have told me! Use the binocs and quit with the camera stuff if you want to learn birds!

(Anyway, I was pleased the birder liked my posted pics and my blog, even though she does not post on the list. I hope there are more silent aficionados out there!).

I just thought I would mention to you birders tonight that I am “part-way converted”, or at least approaching it. Earlier this week, I actually cleaned up and put my 40+ year old 7x50’s in the trunk. Actually, they have always been in - and mostly unused - my Jimmy all this time, but now we usually drive Judy’s more fuel-efficient car so I just cleaned and moved them over. (I think I mentioned somewhere along the line that I had just about worn out my tabbed West Coast Peterson Guide in “the old days”). As a biologist, I used the binocs frequently on the West Coast! Watch for birds: “Hey! There are fish in them there waters”! – or, “even just to look at birds” anyway – Yes, I need to find my field records to help document my “life list”!. (I especially loved the very common willets! Pretty and interesting – now, it just fascinates me that I am trying to learn shorebirds again! The black & white of flying Killdeer remind me of willets in a way!) (Yeah, yeah, I know – it was only a few months ago I asked you guys about my lousy pics of these Killdeer things at Holland Ponds (hey! it’s been four decades!) – and, no, I am not embarrassed! I appreciated it and obviously learned something!) I know their sound now (or think so – does any other bird make a Killdeer sound) and I like the black and white and rufous/orange rump of the flying Killdeer. Once I figure how to do a “strap-thing” where cam and binocs are both available, I will probably start “packing” the binocs.


1) “Back then”, film was very expensive. I had a good Nikon camera with a Nikon main 55 mm lens and reasonable Vivitar 70-200 tele, and loved photography, but would rarely ever “waste” a pic on birds. I shot mostly “places” – and maybe a few people – and “specimens” (seaweeds). And, I was a “starving grad student” for so long! I just could not afford it! (BTW: a “brag moment”. I was lucky (and respected enough) in the “old days”, that I was allowed to check out and shoot some pics of an 1840 hand-colored Russian (probably the only copy in existence) publication of seaweeds. A UM professor just published many of my pics this year! Really, really cool!!!)

2) Now, “film” is cheap! I digitally shoot over 200 or more pics on a normal birding walk, and hope I get something (anything) decent! Often it’s frustrating, and I delete maybe 75% of them, but generally have enough left to refresh my mind, or for my records, or sometimes even something decent to print or share. I guess I am still infatuated with “collecting”, but now do it digitally. It also provides me with the same thrill as “catch and release” fishing when I was into bass tournaments in Michigan. Just different!

3) I recently read an interesting article about digital images vs. mental images (I think it was in Wired magazine). Basically, mental images are burned onto your mental “hard drive”. You will have them there forever (I think…). They are more vivid! You can probably recall them in an instant! And, everything I capture digitally, has to be “post-processed” (i.e., “Photoshop-ed”), stored, cataloged, and later located again on a whim. It is really a lot of work! My mental images may live as long as I.

So, one bottom line is to get a high quality video cam to capture movements? Another is to rely on my mind (it’s mine forever!). Another is to just keep doing.

It still leaves the question about my mental hard drive vs. a digital (possibly transitory technology based on the Wired article – like, remember 8-tracks and LPs?) thing, but the mind records “action” rather than “stills”, and even the digital format of videos seems to be in doubt.

The possibility is to give up cameras, and just personally savor, store and replay in my own mind. Certainly my mental “video editor” is much more interesting than any Adobe product! And, the quality of memories will just keep getting better and better over time! Like: Back when I was a kid, I caught a fish that was longer than my leg! “How long was it?” Well, just measure my leg. That’s how big it was! Oh, I guess there is a bit of leg-pulling here (my leg was smaller then…), but that is what memories are for! They just keep getting better and better! Our memories grow with us!

Today, the Robert Long couple allowed us to look thru their scope at a Kingfisher perched on a snag a long ways off. I had already shot it, and knew it was a Kingfisher, and duly recorded it. It is the first time that Judy had ever looked thru a scope (she was impressed!), and my first time in decades (I was impressed as well! Thanks!!!). I distinctly saw the Kingfisher moving its head back and forth! Wow! It was a true revelation! He was moving, twitching, looking around! (So, what’s the big deal?) Yes, actually it was! I can replay this mental video whenever I want! I have my lousy still pics (deleted 10 of 12) on my card, but seeing the thing moving and looking around was really impressionable! It was in 3-D! I remember it now!

Yes, Birders, I proved your point!!! 3-D is better! Better vision, better for behavioral notes, and so on … just better! And yet, here is my mental picture of the Kingfisher from today (it’s a really cool mental picture!) I want to share with you:

Yes, my point! I cannot share it.

(Hey! Does anyone have an old scope left from when you upgraded? I want one!!!) And, no, for right now I will not put down the camera, but I know that I also want to carry a scope to see life in 3-D, and I have nice AA-battery powered Nikon point-and-shoot I think will work with it to get my 2-D sharing pics; (and yes, Jerry’s postings and blog have pointed me in the direction of digiscoping!) The main difference is that when I take my pics with the scope, I will be able to continue to watch the bird turn its head – or do whatever birds “do” thru the process, and at a far longer (“unspooky”) distance than now!

On the other hand, with my present technology, I seem to be learning at a reasonable pace. I still do not feel I have time in the field to see a bird, flip thru my field guide, and come up with a guess, then look back at the long gone bird to verify the primary characteristics (“Peterson arrows”) that I missed the first time.

I have learned so many new birds this year! I can now make a reasonable Michigan bird list quite well (at least 27 species I know “for sure” at Long today – 2 more to “process”), and I know when the bird might be new. (I say “mostly” because I just learned (thanks, Mike) that a Killdeer is a plover. Indeed! There are many more “killdeer things” that warrant focus and attention. Well, that is my current learning pattern. I think once I am more comfortable with field characteristics, I will add other optics for recording mental images in addition to my digital computer ones.

So, (I am writing before I download and “post-process” my pics from today), I just asked myself - and share with you - “What do I remember from today?”

1) I remember the Kingfisher (thru the scope) turning its head (3-D!);

2) I remember the sharing of fellow birders (Judy and I always remember each time fellow birders have shared tips with us!);

3) I remember shooting dozens of pics of the cormorants (unafraid) sitting on snags directly in front of us;

4) I remember the wren singing its head off by the bridge and never letting us see it for long;

5) I remember the “dog guy” was not there when we were;

6) I remember that I actually “saw” the Red Headed Woodpecker today and did not know it (I reviewed my pics on the cam on our return home, and what I had thought was the Kingfisher a “mile away” (yes, I shoot, shoot, shoot!) actually was the Red Head in a different spot!;

7) I remember that Judy and I enjoyed the great lunch she packed while sitting in the picnic shelter watching for shore birds.

8) And, no, I mostly do not remember my shots from today until I freeze them as “processed” pics. At that time they will join my other memories in the mental hard drive. Most interesting!

I think I also will drop this e-mail to you birders into my blog, but wanted to share with you guys first. You inspire me!

Many birders have responded to my “silly questions” (by now you should know that there are never really any “silly questions” – think in larger context here – and having seen others respond to mine you should be unafraid to post your own!), and my requests for ID’s (yes, even for lousy pics – Hey! if it is possible to ID a lousy pic by “Gestalt”, so far so good, and more power to you! I hope to get to that ability again myself - but now for birds! If the pic is really too lousy, and you said so, more power to you as well – in all cases, you have pointed me to at least a family of birds, and I have read up on that family and know what to look for next time!)

BTW: if I have not mentioned it before, I often write as much (possible more?) for myself than for the people with whom I share my writings. (Hence “rambles”?) If you have read so far, I applaud and thank you.


“Dr. Bob”

Robert Long Park 2009-08-07

Robert H. Long Park, 2009-08-07, 10:40a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

These are the species saw today:

Great Blue Heron (1 only)
Great Egret (a few)
Double-Crested Cormorant (3)
Canada Geese
Pied-billed Grebe (2)
A new sparrow (good pics - will post for ID)
American Goldfinch
Killdeer (lots)
Wood Ducks
Mute Swans
Belted Kingfisher (at least 2)
Cedar Waxwings
Spotted Sandpiper
Mourning Dove
Downey Woodpecker
CArdinal (heard)
House Wren
Ring-billed gulls (only a couple - odd)
Red-Winged Blackbirds
House Sparrows (one eating a dragon fly!)
Northern Flicker
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallows (it looks like the last "kids" left home)
Red-Headed Woodpecker (a brief siting in a diff. location today)
A couple more "peeps" - I need to post pics

For additional thoughts and rambles from today see the next (above) blog.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Robert H. Long Nature Park - Commerce Twp. - MI

2009-08-05 10:20 am-1:30 pm
Today was different at Robert Long! We arrived and immediately noticed something was quite different than the times we visited before. We saw no egrets, no herons, no shorebirds. We saw lots more mallards at the entrance area, but very few goosers. There were still quite a few gulls in front of the gazebo, but not so many as previously. Weird! OK, what was the difference. I came up with a few ideas after walking a bit:
1) It was a beautiful day for weather! A cold front had just come thru and the temps were pleasant! (A reason I had chosen to go today!). Then, I remembered my bass-fishing days where a cold front would put down the bass, and wondered if birds responded similarly to cold fronts. (Geez! Sounds like another of my "Dr. Bob questions"...)
2) As we walked, it became apparent they had recently mowed (probably yesterday) the grass on the open spaces and the edges of the trails
3) The lake had receded quite a bit, exposing many more yards of shoreline, and causing a strong "fishy smell" from the dying algae and microscopic organisms.
Hey! When you notice a big difference in a place you know fairly well , it is up to YOU to hypothesize why there may be the difference. ( is called "science"... the questions you ask, and your observations may cause science to go forward - or, at worst, to make you learn more!).
Shortly thereafter, another reasonable hypothesis presented itself. The "dog guy" was ahead of us today. We normally get there ahead of him, but today he had already worked all of our normal areas with his unleashed decoy-fetching dog. He usually works the dog at the four areas most open to observation and photography.

We sat for awhile hoping to allow the park to restore itself, but with little immediate results. Fortunately, by the time the "lunchtime birders" showed a up a couple hours later, the park had "reset", and the "show" was not too much different than usual - with two huge exceptions. We saw only one Great Blue Heron today (a flyover), and three Great Egrets (one far away across the lake, and one perched in a tree in a corner, and one in front of the picnic shelter). Also, it was interesting to note the normal gull population off the shelter had been reduced all day, and at lunchtime, was practically non-existent.

In all, the number of species was about the same, but the mix was quite different.

We characterized it as a "Cormorant Day" since we had one Double-Crested Cormorant alight and "hang out" on a snag within easy reach, and just sat there posing while Judy shot her first shots of a cormorant, but otherwise to me it just seemed weird for this wonderful spot.

We again enjoyed learning more from the birders we encountered (thanks to "Stylurus" (Darrin), and Mike Mencotti for sharing suggestions!) and added two new species to our list.
Species list follows:

Mute Swans
Canada Geese
Barn Swallows
Ring-billed Gulls
Pied-billed Grebes (2)
Eastern Kingbird
Wood Ducks
Great Blue Heron
Red-winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch
Cedar Waxwing
Belted Kingfisher
Double-Crested Cormorant
Great Egrets
Northern Flickers (3)
Downey Woodpeckers (inc. one juvenile)
Grackle (1)
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Lesser Yellowlegs?
Plover sp. ?
Plus turtles and two muskrats. Also, a really neat brownish dragonfly that refused to sit for a pic.
The following is how I started the blog tonight. I did it first to provide background for the "birders list"on some questions I had asked. I end my blog with requesting experienced birders to please reply to my questions - there and here.

For now, I am just adding a few lousy pics of a "kid" Downy Woodpecker and parent in just about the worst lighting situation possible! Heavy shade and bright sunlight. The point I want to make here is that the "kid" seems to be able to eat well and be self-supporting, but at one opportunity, the kid is acting like he is "starving" and assumes the universal pose and behavior for "birdie feed me". I have never before seen this in woodpeckers. It further justifies my idea of universal birdie kid behavior that triggers feeding by any adult bird nearby. It would have been really great to see a Redwing Blackbird or someone else trying to feed this "poor starving kid", but for the most part in this encounter even the parent ignored the kid! I think the kid is too old!).
Q: When is it in "birdie years" that a parent suggests the kid leave the nest?
The following are pics are the kid Downy WP with a background parent ("Da Momma"?). He has his "flaps down" and knows how to sit a perch.

Now, here is the "starving kid pic" (lousy as the pic is, I hope the message is here!) Momma? Look at me! I'm starving! See? I have my wings in the right position! I am trembling! Momma? Momma! Is anyone out there?)

Please feed me!