Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010-06-18 Holland Ponds

2010-06-18 Holland Ponds, 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m., 71 - 76 degrees.

I entered my data into eBird and requested an e-mail be sent to me. The following is what you get almost immediately after you enter and submit your data. I present it this way just to let you know how easy it is! It also shows you that you can add comments in eBird to make it more memorable to you. It's a cinch! You do not even have to type names, just scroll down the expected birds in the area and remember what you saw (or tick them off the list you kept).

From eBird e-mail of what I recorded (I took out extraneous carriage returns):

Location: Holland Ponds

Observation date: 6/18/10
Number of species: 20

Mallard 4 Flying
Great Blue Heron X The oldest heron "kids" are almost as large as adults and actively flapping wings and "lifting off" the nests. It will not be long before they start leaving!
Mourning Dove X
Belted Kingfisher 1 Heard only
Downy Woodpecker X
Eastern Kingbird X Several. Feeding on bugs over the pond surfaces.
Warbling Vireo X Lovely song. Decent photos!
Blue Jay X
Tree Swallow X
House Wren X Lovely song. Decent photos!
Eastern Bluebird 1
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
Yellow Warbler X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X Lots of young in pond-side weeds crying for food. They almost sounded like a short catbird meow.
Common Grackle X
Orchard Oriole X Nice pics! Just east of Waterfowl Pond.
American Goldfinch X
House Sparrow X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

OK, so now that you have seen the species, here's the comments.
It was a wonderful morning at Holland Ponds. There were no dogs! We saw only one other person out for a walk.  The weather was great! We were free!!!

The Warbling Vireo was a new one for us. Fortunately it sat in a few places where I could get a pic. Hey just tell me I got it right please! It had such a melodic song I thought it was a wren. :)
Damn dinky birds are LOUD! And wonderful!

Warbling Vireo

Another damn dinky bird with a LOUD sound - a House Wren! Did you ever try to get pics of these silly dinky birds after trees are leafed out? Am I right? Certainly a lucky pic! Most of the time it was always behind something! I think there were three of these there.

House Wren

We saw several Eastern Kingbirds flying over the pond catching insects. One was nice enough to pose for my best shot ever! I was also lucky enough to get my best pics to these birds just "doing" - i.e., doing the bug-catching thing! They are not as bad as swallows, but it is really hard to catch any bug-eater just "doing"!

The cats were out! We really did see Catbirds! We were fooled quite a few times by young Red-winged Blackbirds requesting food (Now!). They started off with the beginnings of a "meow" and quit. Same pitch and tone as a Catbird. It really fooled us for a bit until we watched the show with responding parents. We never really saw the  kids (deep in the shoreside weeds), but it was obvious.

Later we found a Catbird that kept calling for "Harry"! Hair-ry, hair-ry. It was really cool! It was consistent for at least ten minutes, and reminded us of the last time we had a bird that we could name with its sound - the "uh uh" bird in south Florida (Fish Crow) near Ding Darling. We have yet to see/hear a Mockingbird in Michigan, but we'll take a Catbird anytime we hear one! "Hair-ry! Hair-ry"! "Meow"!

Here's a nice pic of a Catbird (Meow!)

And another really great bird! We got our first Orchard Oriole of the year! And it was the best looks we ever had! I am sure they nest there in the same area each year just east of Waterfowl Pond in the woods south of the entrance road. Last year we saw one on the other side of the forest on the middle path in the same area. I suspect there is an additional nesting place west of the gazebo half way to the path to Yates because I saw them there last year, and think I saw one this year (unconfirmed with pic).

Orchard Oriole!

Yes, a great day! Some other "crtitters": butterflies, Painted Turtles, and more, but today the birds were the main attraction! What a place!

Oh, and to end with a pic, here is a pic of a Tree Swallow flying right at me! Wow! These guys are hard to catch  in flight anyway, but I just happened to be in the right focal plane!!!

Tree Swallow coming actcha!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Holland Ponds 2010-06-08

Holland Ponds 2010-06-08 2:00 - 4:00 pm

We had another (mostly) nice day at Holland Ponds. We had a chance to get some great pics of a Belted Kingfisher!  Normally we never see them fairly close. They are usually "rattling" (reference to the sound they make) and "doing" far off. We see them flying and then watch for awhile. This time I saw the bird before she saw us (rare indeed - they are about the spookiest birds we try to photograph!). A lady kingfisher just "hanging out" and resting! Wow! Other than that, we did not get too many pics of new birds, but we saw our first mink there!

Any day outdoors always seems to be interesting. We always remember "our song":  "da doot de doo doot!", and our mantra: "You never know...". We also know that if you do not get outdoors, you can sing all you want and never have a personal encounter with nature!

Species list (it is not a big list - a very small day at Holland for species):

Mallard - female with 3 large kids
Red-winged Blackbirds
Tree Swallows (1 emerging from nest box)
Catbirds (heard)
Belted Kingfisher (best pics yet!)
American Goldfinches
Mourning Doves
Bluebird (only one. We have not seen as many this year as last year)
Baltimore Oriole
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Canada Geese (heard only - odd)
Great Blue Herons. Feeding young. Lots of squawking when a parent returned with food. What a ruckus! The "kids" are now about adult height and are testing their wings. It will not be long before they fulfill every parent's desire and leave the nest! I wonder if herons feel remorse when the kids leave? I imagine not. If I were a heron, I would just swallow whatever fish I brought back to the empty nest and take a nap! (Human parents tend to be quite different and wonder what to do next with the rest of their lives).

Great Blue Heron Rookery - What a treasure in our midst!

Feed ME!

Belted Kingfishers - Females!
This is one bird where the prettiest are females. (At least to humans!) I guess the Kingfisher ladies like the "non-scuzzy look" on the chest. No extra belts for them,! The cleaner the better!

Mink!!! Crossed the road between the two small ponds just east of Waterfowl Pond. First time we saw one there. Darn thing was too fast for a pic. It was a great record! (No pics - quick little thing!)

Green Frog (very cooperative for pics!) We call this the "boing frog" because of its sound. Usually it is just "splash and gone" before we even see them!

"Boing Frog"

Can you say "timpanic membrane"?
(Oh, go look it up...I just did because I thought I remembered something from long ago ...)
Largemouth bass - first one we have seen in the shallows in mid-day. I know this is a great spot for bass for those using refined techniques for fishing shallow areas with lots of snags. (I would not eat anything from here so catch & release!)
Snake - Too quick for a pic or ID!
Dragonflies (several species)

Here's one for code name "Stylurus" (which also just happens to be the Genus for some silly dragonfly...)

James Fox tells me this is a Dot-tailed Whiteface. Thanks James!

The area where the snapping turtles laid eggs last year was showing the ground upheaved and cracking in one place. Action soon!

A down side of the day was when a muzzled un-leashed dog jumped up on me. Basically the dog seemed friendly (thank God!), but his owner was quite scary! A bit shaken after being jumped on, I angrily told him it was a law that dogs be leashed. In response - his testosterone obviously pumping - he threatenly told me to "Chill Out" along with a few other choice words. I think the only thing that saved me from being physically attacked by this man was the fact he was with his family.

Adrenaline (mine) and Testosterone - a scary encounter! You can guess who might win!

One woman (the man's mother?) leashed up the dog and apologized to us for the incident. This incident further emphasizes what we have seen as a growing trend to run unleashed dogs especially at Holland Ponds as well as other places where we bird. In most cases the owners and dogs are reasonable, but many times the owners are indignant that we suggest they follow the laws. Usually we are quite a way from roads and other people, so there is always a concern for what happens if we are really attacked. Yes, carrying a cell phone gives some assurance, but hardly serves as a defensive weapon. I note that the "dog rules sign" at Holland Ponds was never replaced - or maybe it was again torn down. In the case today, the man and his family entered from the trail from Yates Cider Mill, so there should be a set of Rules and Regulations signs posted where the Yates trail enters the Holland Ponds site as well as at the main entrance.

The Calvary Arrives! As in the old movies, just in the nick of time! Whew!

You can see from the pic that the man is restraining both his dog and his son. Sadly, I think the "like father like son" lesson has already taken hold. Maybe today was just another lesson in bonding for them? Now, that is what is really scary! What was the lesson for the kid? "Never let a couple of defenseless Senior Citizens tell you what to do! Show them who is boss!" (No wonder the guy had to muzzle his dog!)

Holland Ponds is a true joy for us. We love going there, and adding to the records of its natural history. It is close. It is an unusual area and very rich in all forms of wildlife.

It needs protection, as do the visitors! Hey, Shelby Twp. Police, the shelter is a great place for lunch, and your occasional presence would be appreciated! I know y'all have gate keys - we have enjoyed seeing you there before. And, Shadbush Nature Center, please be sure the dog rules signs are up! With recent articles in the papers about the heron rookery, more people are learning about the place, and they will probably return to enjoy walks in nature throughout the year.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wetzel SRA (Macomb County) Michigan - 2010-06-09

Wetzel SRA (Macomb County) Michigan - 2010-06-09

We birded Wetzel with Ed Lewandowski today. Ed is a great birder and a patient teacher. We picked up three lifers (and another) with his help.

I think the most interesting lesson from today is the same lesson we learned the last time we birded with Ed. It is also the same lesson we learned from Chris Goulart (another great teacher!) at the same site. The birds are there - you just have to know what to expect, and you just have to remain expectant on seeing birds. We will probably always keep learning the same lesson!

I think so often Judy and I go somewhere and walk around and keep seeing the birds we know, and missing the ones we would like to see because we tend not to stay very long in spots where we do not immediately see birds. And, we do not bird new habitats very often. Especially, we do not stay very long in the spots where it is difficult (impossible?  ... well almost ...) to get photos. And, on hot days, we are always looking forward to hanging out in the next shady spot (did I ever mention we are "fair weather birders") and tend to miss birds in the more exposed areas. Such is life for seniors or the less inspired among us.

Yes, it is the same story: Keep doing what you always do, and you will get the results you always get.

Here is the species list I wrote on my 3x5 card ("field notes"). I just finished editing and annotating the eBird "shared" list Ed put up. Always the teacher, Ed made me sign up for eBird to see his darn list! Hey! Ebird is easy! I'll tell you about it on another blog.

Here is an extremely hard bird to get! A Sedge Wren! (Lucky shot!)

Sedge Wren !
Yellow Warbler
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-winged Blackbirds
Great Crested Flycatcher !
Swamp Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Canada Geese (communal gosling raising!)
Song Sparrows
Eastern Kingbird
Mute Swans with cygnets
Bank Swallow !
Savannah Sparrows
Bobolink !
Spotted Sandpiper
Catbirds (H)
Indigo Bunting
Forster's Tern
Northern Flicker
Killdeer (on Werdeman Rd.)
Great Egrets
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift "flying cigar" - I now recognize the flying cigar thing, and the next time I will count it as a lifer!
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Baltimore Oriole

I think we had 35 species vs. Ed's 49. Not bad at all for us! (Thanks Ed!)

The best birds were the lifers! I always wanted to see a Bobolink (go figure - maybe it was a Dr. Bobolink?)

I got my best pics ever of Savannah Sparrows!

We saw a Spotted Sandpiper walking on the dam (dike) road! And when I approached too closely, it flew off to the normal habitat where we might expect it.

And we got another lifer with the Bank Swallows. Hey! Did you ever try to shoot pics of swallows? If you ever did, you will surely appreciate the fact that these lousy pics show enough field characteristics (banded collar) to appreciate the effort! Heck, Ed, I'll bet you thought I was just damn nuts for trying! Never overlook the power of luck on such a wonderful day! Lifers!

Just to close, I offer a quite good pic of a familiar bird. When they pose, who am I to resist?! They are always asking for a portrait!


Regarding the eBird thing. I am really quite happy my teacher made "me do it". Many of my heroes on the Michigan birders listserv have suggested in many ways that I start listing on eBird rather than keeping my own lists or spreadsheets. They have suggested personal advantages and also told me that I could be helping science. So why did I resist? Ignoring an obvious stupid answer or self reflection and incrimination, I can just say "I tend to keep doing what I have always done".

I think that is where I started. So - having closed the circle I opened near the beginning of this blog - I can only offer: "I hope you enjoyed the story and the pics of our new lifers"!

And I add, be sure to thank your teachers! From teachers, we learn and advance! From complacency or inertia, we just keep "doing".

Cheers! - "Dr. Bob"

ps., after joining eBird, I found out that Ed and Chris have listed more species from Macomb County than anyone else in the world! Wow! I am truly humbled and honored that they invited us and allowed Judy and I to bird with them!!! We have been truly blessed! And, I really understand. A great teacher makes the difference in the lives of so many people! I think they just have to do it! Please always recognize and thank your teachers! Yes, thank you guys so much!