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"


"Dr. Bob" said...

I was e-mailed this comment and want to share:

"What a great blog entry! Your enthusiasm makes your observations leap right off the page, and the photos of you and Judy with the birds are fabulous. I've never had the pleasure of hand feeding totally wild birds before, and you make me want to do so more than ever!"

Laurent said...

black capped chickadees are so underrated!!!!

great blog, Doc

Anonymous said...

I was out there last weekend and we fed the birds and also saw a Red tailed hawk, it flew down from a tree and landed right in front of us catching a ground squirrel that had been begging birdseed from us. He stood there in front of us for a long time digging his claws into his kill waiting for it to die, I have never been that close (10 ft) from a hawk before.

We also had a woodpecker come down to feed that had a red spot on his head. I am not a birder, so not sure if it the woodpecker you heard...but it definitely had a blazing red spot on his head.