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"!


Allen Chartier said...

Dr. Bob,

Thank you for the good review of Birds of Detroit. I feel that I should clarify my role in the authorship of that book. Probably 90% of the text was written by Chris Fisher, as there is a series of these books that came out for major cities around the country (I also have Birds of Seattle and Birds of San Francisco on my shelf). My role was originally as an editor of the text, and the distribution charts, as well as selecting the 100 species to be included. Every one of these guides has someone like me to do such review, but my involvement and extent of changes became great enough that the publishers felt that my name should be on it as co-author. I had nothing to do with the illustrations, but agree they are well done. It is my feeling that Birds of Detroit is a great first book to drag someone out into the field, away from watching their feeders, to see what's out there. Then "regular" field guides should be of interest. Beyond these field guides, another book that I did have more to do with is National Geographic's Complete Birds of North America. This book is basically the NGS field guide expanded considerably, with much more text on each species and sidebars covering some of the more difficult ID challenges. I was a contributing author to this (hard cover) book and feel it is a very good product. I noted last week that it is on sale for $9.99 at the Border's Bookstore in Ann Arbor. I think you'd enjoy this one too, though it is not as "poetic" as Chris Fisher's text in Birds of Detroit.

P.S. The "friend" of your Green-winged Teal is a female Gadwall.

-Allen Chartier

"Dr. Bob" said...

Thanks, Allen! Please pass my compliments to Chris Fisher. I'll probably get his SF(my old "stomping ground)book just for fun. Also, I'll pick up the Nat Geog book - more fun reading!
I should note that part of my excitement may have come from the fact I was "ready for" the Birds of Detroit. After looking at birds for the better part of the year, I now recognize so many birds (maybe 2/3 of the ones in the book!) that I am very receptive to learning more about them. It was fun!

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