Monday, September 19, 2011

2011-09-16 & 17 Ottawa NWR (Ohio)

2011-09-16/17 Friday & Saturday -  Ottawa NWR (Ohio)

[more later - placeholder ...]

We left the Michigan Hawkwatch on Friday to head off to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (northwest Ohio) to be able to drive the auto tour. Based on a blog posting by Kenn Kaufman, we knew that Ottawa NWR was probably going to open a special part of the drive in conjunction with the Midwest Birding Symposium. They did - and it was great! Many (most?) people had not read Kenn’s posting, or neglected to pick up the orange sheet at the beginning of the drive (!), and did not know they were allowed on the special part of the drive around pool MS5 that had been especially pumped to create shorebird habitat. Judy and I mostly felt we had it to ourselves. A ranger at Ottawa said it should be best tomorrow (Sunday) based on weather conditions, but we really enjoyed what we saw. Snowy Egret was up close and personal (great pics!); a Long-billed Dowitcher (LBDO) was probably the best shorebird for us, but many Yellowlegs and tons of Killdeer were reflected in the still water and made great pics! And, of course, Great Egrets were literally everywhere. Throw in a Bald Eagle and what a great weekend! (Pics later…) Thanks SO MUCH Ottawa NWR for opening this special place to us!!! It was a life time memory, yet we will do it again! And thanks Kenn for inspiration!

Kenn’s post:

2011-09-16 Pte. Mouillee Hawk Watch

2011-09-16 Pte. Mouillee Hawk Watch

[ work in progress - more pics later]

Judy and I had a great couple of days last week starting with actually seeing our first kettles of migrating hawks at Pte. Mouillee. We had gone to Hawk Fest at Lake Erie Metro Park (LEMP) the last two years and never saw anything like this!

Now I am talking hawk watching, not the LEMP festival. Hawk Watch vs. Hawk Festival. The LEMP Hawk Festival is always fantastic!

Hawkfest (a weekend thing) was in conjunction with the Detroit River Hawk Watch program (an on-going survey):

Judy and I love the annual Hawkfest! Even if the weather does not allow good migration viewing, we get to see wonderful birds up close and personal. This year, on Saturday, Joe Rogers presented (always an incredible show and showman); on Sunday, the Howell Nature Center showed off birds; and on both days, the Michigan Hawking Club (Falconry) showed their birds. Fun! We went a day early and missed it.

This year, we really wanted to go to nw Ohio to drive onto the Ottawa NWR for a special auto tour. We did - another blog topic, so passed on the LEMP festivities.

This blog is about hawk watching. A Michigan birder, Jeff Schultz, had been making predictions that Friday would be a good day to see the migration. His enthusiasm drove us there!

Friday, we started at Sigler Rd. – no one and no birds (that we could see …). We went to Pte. Mouillee HQ where we met a group of maybe 20 birders – serious birders with scopes set up and all. Boring … nothing we could see (but others could see them going somewhere – how do they do that???). There seemed to be a “ringleader” - who we learned to be the same Jeff Schultz whose message inspired me to try it on Friday - who shortly suggested the birds were moving south and led a move to the Roberts Rd. parking lot at Pte. Mouillee.

We went there. Soon birders were reporting kettles of birds. Where? There! Where? Etc … I could not see anything!

Fortunately a Facebook Canon SX30 friend of mine (Curt Powell) recognized me and took me under his wing. Like the other experienced birders there, he could see kettles where Judy and I only saw sky. After directions like: “over the dead trees, in the white clouds”, I could finally see “dots” in the sky with my binoculars! With his help, and looking at the scope directions of other birders, I finally was able to get glasses on a lifer bird (actually hundreds!) of a Broad-winged Hawk.

Curt was accompanied by his daughter. That really impressed me! For a high school kid to go birding with her Dad ("Boring!" I can just hear it ...) means a great bond! That's how you get kids into birding! Here's a wonderful Judy pic at the (really boring - like I said) previous Pte. Mouillee HQ site. I love it!

Biker Andy and Curt and daughter

I rarely could see the birds without binocs – but how do these guys know where to look with binocs??? Younger eyes and experience - I guess.

A few times the kettle came close enough that I could see the “dots” with the naked eye. I am not sure Judy ever could see dots more than once.

Fortunately, I had just received my replacement camera from Canon (now a T2i) and IT could also see dots once I got it on the right area after finding the birds with binocs. Unlike the SX30 (actually a great camera despite my whining), the T2i has the continuous shooting and faster focus I prefer (trust to luck!) so I was able to post a few pics on my PBase site. PBase pics of “hawk dots”:  (Do “next” to see total of 4 pics).

The message here is that you really have to be with someone who knows hawk watching! (“Don’t try this alone!”) Fortunately Curt and the others could see imaginary dots in the sky that really were hawks! Another message is that I have always doubted anyone really seeing (for example) 4000 hawks or more in a day. Like – “oh, come on …”! But really it is true!!! In the brief time (about an hour) we were with Jeff’s gang at Roberts Rd., even I (!) saw at least three kettles of about 400 hawks! Ten kettles are not so far to figure – I could even imagine a hundred kettles. Incredible!!! OK. I am a believer!

Another wonderful thing was meeting some birders I knew only by reputation or personal communication. I admit, I was a bit intimidated because I am a relatively "unknown" birder and really have nothing to offer but enthusiasm, but I did introduce myself to a couple of birders I knew from their postings. Of most interest to Judy was Andrew Dettling. I overheard at Mouillee HQ that he had already ridden his bike 90 miles. At first Judy did not understand. I told her about a BGBY (Big Green Bird Year). All bird recording must be without using any fossil fuels, and it must start at home! Andy has almost 250 BGBY species so far this year! Now, that got Judy's interest! She watched for him to arrive at Roberts Rd. on his bike, then turned around and he was already there! Fast! How did he do it? (actually his fast bike... and we were busy meeting people.) Here's a Judy pic. It was nice to meet someone "of legend"!

Andy Dettling at Pte Mouillee Roberts Rd. on BGBY

Interestingly, the official LEMP counts were FAR lower that day. Even a few miles make a huge difference! Jeff had it right on in his prediction! Thank you SO much “Ring-leader Jeff”!!! I have not been on many official field trips, but certainly this unofficial one was simple incredible! And, thanks so much Curt for personally guiding me!

[Note: the following day (Saturday) set the all-time record for birds observed! 190,000 (Yes, a hundred and ninety thousand!). It's all in how the birds' need to migrate stacks up against the weather! I have learned SO much!]

YES! I am a believer.

2011-09-12 A wedding, Sandhills, TVs and Shiawassee NWR

2011-09-12 A wedding, Sandhills, TVs and Shiawassee NWR

[Note: I originally started to write a short note to the SEMich birder's list about our new-found place for "easy birding", and got carried away. I should have done it as a blog, and merely made reference to it on the birder's list. Oh well ... the creative spirit is hard to stop when it takes command. Anyway, I repost it here, and will add photos after I catch up on a few more trips.]

[Note 2: Since then, Steve Kahl just posted a note to the birders that Shiawassee will be open longer in October this year. I repost his complete note. It includes references.

"Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge has postponed the closure date of the Wildlife Drive from October 5 to October 28. This extension will expand wildlife observation opportunities along our auto tour route much further into fall migration. Please note that the gates currently are open from 7AM to 7PM. However, from October 8 to October 28 the gates will not open until 1PM.

Please see the Recent Bird Sightings Google Gadget on the refuge's home page to see what has been observed at the refuge over the last 30 days. The address is
Another good way to monitor refuge sightings is to check the Saginaw County Departures in eBird. Most lists submitted in Saginaw County are from the refuge. The address is: ]

[Note 3: It is truly great that Steve and others are using eBird to report sightings. Not just the "fancy stuff", but also the "regulars". By following the above link, you really get an idea of what is there!]
Begin "ramble" (by that I mean my story...):

Judy and I headed to Alma, Michigan over the weekend for a family wedding.

On the way up I-75 on Saturday, we saw a flyover of six Sandhill Cranes (Judy’s favorite bird) near Grange Hall Rd. (exit 101) heading northeast. WOW!!! This was the first time we saw several Sandhill Cranes flying together!!! Truly impressive! (So where were they going …?)

On Sunday -heading back- we were going to Shiawassee NWR along M-46 and saw a nice kettle of 20 Turkey Vultures near where M-46 crosses the Tittabawassee River. Another first while driving, and only the second time we saw a TV kettle!

Hey! Birds are in the air – doing something! Now I just have to figure out what it is …

We spent about 2 ½ hours mid-day at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday. It is really a great place for us – it is like a Pte. Mouillee where you can drive the dikes! (Thanks so much to Diane Constable, Jane, and David for quickly responding to my info request to the list the night before!!!)
The auto tour can be weather dependent – there are a few low spots where flooding happens, but it was fine now. If nothing else, it is a place to enjoy “listening to nothing but nature” and just enjoy ambience. We met a senior (more senior than us) couple on the dikes. They were arguing whether the many white birds (maybe 4 dozen) were egrets (he said they were only in Florida). I was pleased I could actually tell someone what they were seeing. She “won”, and both were happy. I also mentioned the Great Blue Herons – yes they saw those also.

Prior to going out on the auto tour, we stopped by the visitor center and really enjoyed the tips provided by the on-duty ranger Kile Kucher. It turns out that one weekend each year (Refuge Open House Weekend) they allow full access (“walk anywhere”) access to the entire refuge. (No, we only did the auto tour on our first visit – but it is really something to consider next year ... there are tons of areas to explore!) It’s really so hunters can scout areas for deer hunting, but many hikers/bikers use the time to explore new areas. We grabbed Kile’s time between two hunters, and were exceptionally pleased he could “talk birds” as well as showing his expertise in hunting. He is a great naturalist and fantastic with the public! His specialty is invasive plants. He has the credentials for proper application of herbicides (think Phragmites control) and the practical experience of hand-pulling garlic mustard (the only effective remedy). Really, it was impressive to talk with a young man with so much knowledge! Many of our southeast Michigan parks could really use this insight!

Anyway, Kile suggested the best places to view shorebirds along the drive. He was right on!

For people who know the area, there were at least five species of shorebirds feeding with a lone egret in the pond behind the observation deck at the northeast corner of the drive. A scope would work well there – or binocs for someone more experienced than me. In Pond-1A (north-east corner of the drive), there were dozens of Great Egrets – quite reminiscent of Lautenshager Unit at Pte. Mouillee during the OAS trip there in August – but the distance was very far. A scope is essential! This is the area where Lyle Hamilton reported on the se-mich list (mid-August) an Ibis. Kile told us it was only there a few days.

Kile told us of the current flooding of two units on the west side of the drive. Right now one is a plowed field (cottonwood control – get control while possible!) that should be great for shorebirds as water rises. Maybe we will call ahead and check it out near month-end. Kile figures two weeks. It is really close to the tour road!

I echo Lyle Hamilton’s posting on the se-mich birder’s list: “Special thanks to Steve Kahl and his team at Shiawassee NWR for making this area accessible by auto“!

YES! This is truly an exceptional opportunity for those of us where a very long hike is unreasonable. (Pte. Mouillee - take note!) Imagine being able to drive Pte. Mouillee! Yes! - All that is needed at Pte. Mouillee are a few turnouts (and make it a one-way tour) and words on maps (like: “stay in your car except at turnouts – the car is a “blind” and will not spook the birds”, etc. - similar to those at Shiawassee to make it work!

I also want to pass to Steve (Refuge Manager) our accolades for the wonderful help and courtesy shown by Kile! Gold star! Thanks so much! We will definitely return!

I note the auto tour is only open until October 5 this year. Hey – it’s not that far! I think it is the second exit north after Birch Run off I-75.


OK, … so I “ramble” … It was a great weekend! Oh – just to make it even better, Kile gave us a poster of Sandhill Cranes he had on the desk at the office. He noted he had one hanging in his own house – as will we!
Wedding bliss, reception with family, Sandhill Cranes, a kettle of vultures, and serenity – what more can one ask?

Go bird!

Been busy!

I just totally admire bloggers who can "do it", then "write it" in a reasonable time frame!

Judy and I have been quite busy in August and September. Mostly it was family stuff - college reunions, family reunions, weddings, etc. with several birding trips thrown in. And of course we took lots of photos. From a birding blog view, this really has slowed any progress at all. Geez! Family want to see their pics too! So I have been posting family pics on Facebook, making prints and so on. Now I have tons of "unspoken" bird pics!

I am going to drop a few "placeholders" on the blog tonight to fill in later.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2011-08-13 Pte. Mouillee, Monroe County, MI

2011-08-13 Pte. Mouillee, Monroe County, MI

Judy and I went on our second ever (formal) birding field trip with the very active Oakland County Audubon Society. This was a very special very event where the society was allowed to drive onto the dikes at Point Mouillee State Game Area. It happens once per year. You can gather from my previous blogs that Judy and I had tried on a few occasions to venture out there and - to date - had only been reasonable successful once. I'll tell you - driving sure beats hoofing it!

The number of cars was limited so we met at the Sigler Road parking lot and squeezed into four cars to drive the dikes.

A few notes:

I think this is the first time I had ever set my alarm to get up and go birding (maybe that is the reason I miss so many field trips?) - but, it sures beats an alarm telling me to go to work! Interestingly, seeing recent several posts from my Facebook birding friends showed me that I was not alone in both setting the alarm and also in not getting a very good sleep due to concern about missing the 8:00 am start and also the the anticipation of the day before me.

A truly impressive bunch of birders attended this event. Some were good birding friends we had met previously, several were heroes and correspondents - some of whom we had not met, and many were just fine birders I knew by reputation. It was a true joy to see so many sympatico "relatives" all assembled for one purpose! I'll sprinkle some pics in this blog.

Here is a map of Pte. Mouillee I put together from three maps referenced on Bruce Bowman's website (click the embedded link to go there - scroll down to “Southeast Michigan (not Washtenaw County) - Pte. Mouillee”). Having a map is essential. You need one to communicate. You need one to know where you are. And especially when on foot, you need to know how far you went and far far you need to go to get back to the parking lot. It is always really easy to keep going to reach the spot where someone told you birds were located, but you gotta remember your legs and body will double the effort!

Accolades really go to Allen Chartier who first published the main map in his great book (click to go there ...) published by the American Birding Association. References on the map to "sites mentioned in text" refer to comments in his book. Allen tries to keep the book current.

The day started great as an eagle flew over at our first stop when all cars had passed the gate and we waited fot the gate to be locked again.

Our basic route was: 

Sigler Road. Pause by gate. Stop at nw corner of Nelson Unit. Stop midway down the road between Nelson Unit and Long Pond to look for possible Ibis (none). Stop at corner of Bloody Run and Lautenschlager Units (fantastic flock of distant Geat Egrets - maybe 150? - and many shorebirds below). Along Middle Causeway - stopping in the middle to rescue a juvenile Pied-billed Grebe(!). Stop at ne corner of Cell 3 and Humphries (Lead) Units. Then back around Cell 4 and 5 and North Causeway to Sigler Road. (Hey, I think I remembered it - any corrections y'all?)

BCNH flies off into the oblivion of a dead camera ...

A major downside to the day happened to me at the Lautenschlager Unit. This was possibly my best ever opportunity to shoot many shorebirds up close. Shortly after we entered, I was shooting a night heron flying by and my Canon XSI totally died! There! Why there and now? On our first really internal visit to this special place? My last pic was interesting - it looks like a heron flying into an eclipse!

Fortunately Judy had our 12x Kodak as her camera. She inherited it when she gave me the Canon as an anniversary gift in 2008.  My wonderful wife passed it over to me and told me to "go for it". Such love!

Since that time, I have gone thru all the stages of loss of the Canon  - including anger, disappointment, realization, etc. But shortly reality and reflection again allowed me to regain my senses. I took a survey from my date/pic numbered files and realized I had actually shot about 90,000 photos with that camera. Really amazing! And - really amazing - I have had time to reflect. Can you just imagine some dinky magical thing inside a "black box" firing off 90,000 times at speeds around 1/1000th of a second and still working? Whew! 

Just why did it have to do it then - there?

My great birder wife!

Anyway, "everything happens for a purpose". Not that I really needed anything to tell me how much Judy does for me. But, I have been wanting Judy to get more experienced with the new binocs I got her a month or so ago, and now, without a camera around her neck, she faced a great opportunity. And since I was already experienced with her camera, I could record some of our wonderful memories.

I might have missed some bird pics, but the opportunity led me to get many shots of the assembled birders I might have otherwise overlooked. Yes, we all want to see birds, but the pics I really treasure are those of the birding community in which I am honored to be a member. Birds are "my friends". I relish and cherish the opportunities they give me to voyeuristically view and photograph them "doing things", but I know the times that matter most are those when people (humans, birders, heroes, friends ...) have shared a mutual experience with me.

This blog will feature photos more of the human component (the birders) than the birds. "Things happen for a reason"! Yes, that is what we usually tend to remember anyway - far longer than a "life bird"! Well at least for me - I only have about 150 "life birds" so another one is always just a trip away - wherever I go - even locally. Birding friends can never be anticipated. Yes it was a great day!
One of the highlights of the day was meeting Jerry Jourdan in the field (at Cell 3)! I read so many of his blogs on Pte. Mouillee, and sure enough - there he was! I was SO honored when Jerry came over and asked what birds I had seen! Fortunately, he is not "camera shy" and allowed Judy to take a great pic of me with one of my true "heroes"!!
Fantastic bird photographer Jerry Jourdan and his "student"

I managed to get a few shots of Jerry digiscoping. After I stayed an appropriate distance away, Jerry walked back to the group and shared a great lesson on his digiscoping equipment. It actually looks easy enough for me to try it - albeit without his better optical equipment ...

Jerry Jourdan digiscoping at Cell 3, Pte. Mouillee

Master photographer Jerry Jourdan shows how he conquersdistances at Pte. Mouillee. It looks so easy.

Judy and master birder Joe Faggan

Another highlight was actually spending time with Joe Faggan! We met Joe locally (Robert Long Nature Park, Stoney Creek Metro Park...), on many occasions before  -but he was "birding" and Judy and I are a "couple", and neither Joe or us wanted to intrude on the other. It was so nice to have him "cornered". Ah what stories we can hear from this life-long birder!

It was especially fun to be in the car driven by buddy Ed (OAS field trip coordinator this year) and with Cathy Carroll, Janet Hug, and two people we just met: Ed's friend Craig and Alice.  

Janet also poses with a "hero" - Jerry Jourdan!

Ed Lewandowski and Mike McCullough (field trip leader)



Yes it was a great day!

(Stay tuned - more to come!)

2011-08-11 Wetzel SRA

2011-08-11 Wetzel SRA

OK, even after writing in the last post that I needed to record my memories as I get them, I am again behind on my blog. I wanted to post a blog on our recent rrip to Pte Mouillee, and see that I missed a few trips. Some are OK to miss, but I am trying to keep up with a few special places - like Wetzel SRA in Macomb County. I think few people are recording memories there.

Judy and I saw that Thursday, Aug 11, would be a much cooler day than usual this time of year, and I immediately thought of Wetzel. It is so exposed and so normally very humid we avoid it in summer - bugs aside.

After walking around a bit, we realized that indeed we had never been there in August! All of the sedges were now flowering and drooping over the path. All of the other vegetation was intensely lush as well. It was a very different place from spring!

From a view of photographing birds, it was not so good. We spent a lot of time saying  "there he goes ... I mean went". No birdies sitting atop plants and singing and advertising their need for mates. Plenty of places within mid-level of the plants to feed. Whoosh - gone!

Yet fascinating! It is so good to see annual changes in the places we frequent. On the other hand, even on a "cool" day in August (73 to 80 degrees), after a walk around the main lake (making a circle from the southern parking lot) we were dripping and relished the air-conditioning of the car.

Notably, we saw no "shore birds" as we had hoped - the water was too high and the normal exposed island flats were minimal. We saw no bobolinks - did they leave after breeding, or just are making like all the other birdies by staying in the midst of the brush?

We did not have our "hearing" birding companions. Yes  - we heard several birds, but Judy and I are severely "audiornith" - impared (if you need a hyphen in the unusual word, put it wherever you want - I just made up the word)!  I just "gotta get my ears on" for summer birding!!!

It WAS possibly the kindest and best August day to venture there. Temps were reasonable, mosquitoes minimal, and we collected no ticks. Oddly, we did not see as many b'flies and d'flies as we might have suspetcted given the large diversity of flowering plants, but we shot a few.

And, no, I have not worked on the pics yet. We have been busy with family events as well as birding so I am way behind.

Here is the sadly irrepresentative species list.

Canada Goose 2
Mute Swan 6
Mallard 6
Pied-billed Grebe 3
Double-crested Cormorant 2
Great Blue Heron 4
Great Egret 12
Green Heron 2
Cedar Waxwing X
Common Yellowthroat X
Song Sparrow X
sparrow sp. X
Northern Cardinal X
American Goldfinch X

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011-07-27 Robert Long Nature Park, Oakland Co., MI

Note to self:
I just gotta stop worrying about trying to finish my previous blogs - like by adding photos or more words for completeness - and just start recording memories again. It is so easy to "get wrapped around the axle"! Yes, my blogs are neither complete nor perfect, but I did "put it out there", and for me at least, I do have the pics to go along with the blog as part of my "life book". My words remind ME of a part of my life. I read my former words, and treasure the fact I wrote them - there and then!   I doubt I could ever replay or record tham again now. I think a really important thing for me is to record my life and memories as I go. Yes, eventually, I really want to make an illustrated  book by just printing off my blog. That would be really great. (Anyone know how to do this???)

Besides being selfish, self-promoting and self-documenting by blogging, I also post things to try to give back in a very small way to the community of wonderful birders and naturalists who have supported me along the way and provide input on species IDs and just generally some encouragement,  and also the many who also share the blogs of their lives appreciating nature. I really DO feel part of a larger concerned community!

I post things to share with my family.  I also consider those who are not so fortunate as Judy and I currently are and who might be unable to "get out" as often as we attempt.  I always hope my "rambles" give them a "space" where their memories can fly as free as my words and trigger memories of similar times in their own lives! I am writing my memories now so that I can "replay them later" when I am less fortunate in my physical abilitiies to "get out"...

The pics do not change, but I know that my memories DO change over time, so it is best to get out something now, and if the universe allows me enough time and space, I can always fill in the pics later. Smiling, I see from some of my previous blogs I have usually subscribed to this philosophy, but recently I felt an incapacitating need for completeness before I proceeded with my blogging . Silly - obviously nothing happened. Hey, y'all - if you got something to say, do it now! I'll listen and appreciate!

Anyway, here is today's "story" - a "ramble" - written today, and I hope a turn-around for my blogging Gestalt. As you might suspect, many of the pics will come later or perhaps not at all...

2011-07-27 Robert Long Nature Park

Judy and I had a great day at Robert Long! Maybe it was not "fantastic" in the sense of new lifer birds, but we saw over two dozen species of birds, got some decent exercise, had a good picnic and shot a couple target birds that had recently been reported on the se Michigan birder's listserv. Yes, great!

As we arrived we saw three young people with binocs and cameras out on the mudflat. As they passed us I asked what they saw - "sandpipers". "What kind?" "Yellowlegs and peeps, but they flew off". Yes, I guess so - birds often do not care to share their mudflats with humans... (There is a reason my pics are often not so good - I choose not to approach too closely lest the objects of my photographic pursuits and avian desires fly away ...)

We hung around the shelter and watched the mudflat for awhile, but the sandpipers did not return. Mostly we were waiting while the youngsters walked the other trails. One was wearing a white shirt - ah, yes a "white flag"! We are so sensitive to this after reading the article in the excellent book "Good Birders Do Not Wear White".

Hey! I am not "getting down" on the kids! They were enthusiastic, and sharing, and everything I would hope I was "back then". I was not a birder, but I certainly shared my fishing info! There are just a few subtleties they will learn. I am always energized to see anyone from the next generation in the field and involved with nature.  I know for sure they got some great shots of a Great Egret that posed for all of us by the entrance! I do not think I ever had any pics that good as a kid! Cool!

Great Egret looking at a fake "marmot"

Great Egret takes off.  Geez!!  I got a good one here!
So after a short break, off we went. The "middle dike" did not produce the expected abundance of butterflies and dragons (timing I suspect, the plants are "ripe"), or really many interesting birds at all.

Instead of heading left at the next turn, we went to the covered bridge where a man and his kids were fishing. It was obvious they enjoyed seeing birds as well as fishing. They especially liked the Great Egrets. And he asked if we had seen the white hawk-like bird that had passed by about 5 minutes ago. "What was that?" Actually, I had seen the bird in a quick glimpse,  but was not in a place to put any optics on it or even study the behavior. I suggested possibly an Osprey. After Judy shot pics of the kids' fish (bluegill and perch - both released) the kids caught while we were there, we proceeded. We saw one one Barn Swallow left in the nests under the bridge and listened to the  multiple "helper birds" complaining as they tried to help out. (ref Julie Craves article on helper birds ...) The family of human fishers was oblivious.No doubt I would have been as well since in that situation my goal today would have been to produce miniscule fish to cement my relationship with my kids forever. Cool about "helper birds" - they know the swallow kid is there and they will persist!

I had hoped for a Red-headed Woodpecker. No such luck. Actually we did not see any woodpeckers at all today- odd with all the standing dead timber. In the swamp north of the bridge, we got some decent pics of a Tiger Swallowtail and a couple of dragons, and a pic of an Eastern Wood-Peewee. I heard a Common Yellowthroat and possibly a Marsh Wren (gotta hear the CDs again ...)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Then back thru the bridge, down the path, turn right and  ... "off to grandma's house" we went. Well, not really - but that's the directions I provide...

There were many swallows flying just above the green surface. I think: OK, I'll try it again. It is a constant challenge to me to try to shoot one of these fast-moving creatures - hey, digital "film" is cheap - "delete, delete, delete"! I got a couple of reasonable pics of a swallow with a bug in its mouth! (Thanks again Janet Hug for teaching me about my camera! - cool trick) Maybe not the best quality, but if I am swirling around like a man possessed, it is sure nice to have something to show for it!

Tree Swallow with d'fly
Really I cannot fathom how any dragonflies can ever survive to maturity! Last year I was going to shoot a fancy d'fly when a female Red-winged Blackbird plucked it mid-air before me.. And now I see swallows like d'flies as well. Easy pickings! Geez! Why eat mosquitoes when these d'fly guys give far more protein for the effort and they have a larger profile? It's no wonder it is hard to shoot the "other flappy things" when their mere survival depends on constant movement! I suspect they would be far better off by just alighting and posing nearby for my pics than by staying in the air with maurading birdies on the loose ... Maybe evolution will give generational benefits to  those that pose for  "Dr. Bob"?

Judy spied a Great Blue Heron just as I was observing and shooting my first sandpiper of the day. "It has a white head". "Leave me alone, I came for sandpipers" (but I did look long enough to see the head was in the sun and body was in the shade).  I had fixated on a Spotted Sandpiper - no spots, but I learned previously from mentor Mike Mencotti that the spotted guy - esp. juveniles - have a distinct white wedge into the shoulder.

Near where the metal bench used to be, we met a nice young woman with an instrument that looked like it was used for core samples and a handful of very enlarged satellite images of the area. I was curious. Sue Tepatti (works for GWE) was performing surveys for the township. She appeared very interested in hearing about the use and history of the park - particularly as it might relate to water management - and she was also very knowledgeable about invasive species at Robert Long. The township seems to be aware. It is SO encouraging that Commerce Twp. continues to recognize the importance of this unique area in Oakland County, Michigan! It was also obvious Sue loves her work. I think they have the right person and consulting firm on the job. I offered to serve as a contact should she need any help from the birding community (No, I am not the expert, but I know who they are for Robert Long). We exchanged contact info.

In the "back bay", the Double-crested Cormorants were in the usual place. One was drying its wings.

Now Judy and I were feeling the heat and humidity. Both were extremely low today compared with what we have been experiencing, but what else could we expect while walking in "water world" but enhanced levels of each? Anyway, time for lunch (Thanks Judy), so we retired to the shelter and set up the spotting scope. After a much needed drink after dehydration (Dr. Pepper), I scanned the mudflats and saw an object of desire - Semi-Palmated Sandpiper. Whew! My eBird Oakland County records for the year now show 101 species! It's the first year I have ever broken 100 species for a county. I say "not bad for a home boy". (Think cheap "staycation")

After Judy's nice lunch, I was hopeful that we might sit awhile and await a Yellowlegs or Least Sandpiper to appear on the flats. It was not to be. Just at the time I finished my lunch, a heavy-set woman with a folding chair walked out onto the mudflats. (Previously, she and her husband had been eating lunch across from us on the path towards the road). She turned around and glared at me - like "why are you watching me with the telescope"?  (Well I wasn't - she adequately filled the frame of my normal glasses ...)  Then she walked back, collected her husband, and together they walked onto, across and around the remaining mudflat and set up their chairs on the mudflat and commenced afternoon sunning to read their paper and book. Oh well ... at least they were "out in nature" ... I folded the scope and we left. Oddly the "semi-palms" had adjusted, and moved a bit, but were still there. At 6 inches high, it was hard even for us to spot them ("specks are moving"), and Oakland County offers few Sandpiper Buffets, so I suspect anyone who wants record this species will find success even with someone singing (sic) ...

In summary, of the "cool birds" today, we got Spotted and Semi-Palmated Sandpipers. We were disappointed not to see a Red-headed Woodpecker (anyone see one there this year ?). We shot many pics - some of them quite good for us. We had a great "adventure" fairly close to home! Robert Long is a wonderful resource. It is so great it is protected!

Species list from eBird follows. For us amateurs it was really a very decent total (30 species) for the day.

 Robert H. Long Park, Oakland, US-MI
Jul 27, 2011 10:15 AM - 12:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
Comments: 78-84 degrees; sunny; fairly low humidity

29 species (+1 other taxa)
Canada Goose X
Mute Swan 6
Wood Duck 1
Mallard X
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Great Blue Heron 3
Great Egret 6
Killdeer 30
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Semipalmated Sandpiper 3
Ring-billed Gull 50
Mourning Dove 6
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 10
Tree Swallow 10
Barn Swallow 20
Black-capped Chickadee 2
American Robin 3
Gray Catbird 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Song Sparrow 2
sparrow sp. 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 20
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 10

Friday, June 17, 2011

2011-06-17 New eBird - much nicer - a common-man review

2011-06-17 New eBird - much nicer

A couple of days ago I entered eBird to submit a new bird report and found the submittal page had changed. I knew eBird had a beta test going on, and wondered if maybe because I was a subscriber to eBird Tech Talk (a really cool idea of behind-the-scenes action) thay had pushed it on me for trial. I posted a note on the Michigan Birders list that included the question. Only one birder responded. (Thanks Sarah!) Sarah told me that the new eBird data entry had indeed gone live! She agreed that she liked it better.

I am writing now about a great new feature. When you go into "Submit my observations", on the right side you are allowed to select how to present the species list. The default is the new version of the old form. The new version is much cleaner and much easier to use in itself. It much more readily allows scrolling to visually identify the group in which the search object might appear. I had gotten used to the old form and generally had an idea of what bird group preceeded what group. The same order is maintained.  Lacking any specific info, I have always assumed it might be partially related to the evolutionary emergence of bird groups. In my case looking for a bird to record, I postulated jays are more ancient that warblers and sparrows, and that doves predeeded both of these groups. Heck, it is my blog, and this is what the eBird organization of groups told me. I would be interested to hear from ornithologists on this...

There are many other enhancements - like in the area of allowing direct species searches - but I really like playing with my quasi-phylogenetic idea right now and just want to know who is before whom.

The really cool thing (!) today is that there is an option on the right side to request the presented list to "Group by Most Likely". An underlying algorithm analyzes your most recent bird submittals, and presents these at the top of the entry page.

WOW! As a faithful procrastinator, I had finally decided to catch up on adding my daily feeders records to eBird. It was a New Year's resolution of mine to keep up with it ... so be it.

Anyway, I added the last two weeks of April, and then wondered about the new grouping thing. Couldn't hurt. WOW! The "Group by Most Likely" put all of my recent records at the top of the submittal screen. Instead of scrolling up and down all over, the most likely were all in one place. This is fantastic for birders mostly recording feeder activity. It is especially fantastic for procrastinators! I can enter a stack of feeder observations over many days (weeks...) without scrolling hardly at all. Yes, I can enter an infrequent visitor easily, but for the main part, I get about the same "dirty dozen" (or so) visiting my feeders day to day.

I already dropped in the first two weeks of May, and had to pause to write this note. I love it! Procrastination actually works sometimes.

Yes, you have to uncheck the box to see the normal entry list (phylogenetic order???) for reporting, but if the majority of your sightings are in the same area it is a blessing.

Here is a pic of the top of the entry screen I see now. Note the "Group by Most Likely" box is checked.

The list goes on to include the rest of birds in Michigan, but I really had to move away from the top only once. Cinchy! These are my normal guys. I already printed off the list so now I can just add numbers and notes daily without writing down my shorthand for each bird's name. (Pretty cool in itself!)

Another really cool feature of the new eBird is that when you enter a number for some species, you are immediately given an option to enter more data. In "the old days", you had to enter quantity data for all species, then you went to a second screen (but only if you had selected "enter more data" on the initial entry screen) to add sex/species comments/etc. info. As a "long-hand" recorder it forced me to go thru my list twice. This is so much easier. Caveat: Yet, for now, this feature is slow in response ... albeit bearable from the "old days" when I might have decided entering additional information was boring. OK, yes, my computer is "small" in RAM memory (2 gB), but I imagine many people have much smaller boxes. Newer computers might not experience the same problems.

Here is a pic of the "Group by Most Likely" with expanded options for additional data:
After you enter all your data, you get a page that said you did it successfully. It also gives you options for sharing. I successfully emailed myself the results. I also shared a recent list from Wetzel when we birded with Janet Hug, and she successfully added it to her eBird account.  Janet also successfully shared the Facebook link to our trip by clicking the button.

So far, it has not worked for me to share on FB directly as my FB status after I submitted my data. Maybe I just do not understand. Everything else works fine, and I have email anyway!

Successful submittal page:

Not a bad "ramble" for a day's work! We have a great new tool available!

Go bird. Try the new eBird!

- "Dr. Bob"

2011-06-15 Wetzel SRA (Macomb County), Michigan

2011-06-15 Wetzel SRA (Macomb County), Michigan
I will probably put more words and pics here later, or at least add other pics to my PBase site. I got lots!

Judy and I had the great fortune to bird with Janet Hug today at Wetzel SRA. We had only met her once before - at Kensington MetroPark - serendipity! - but we have been Facebook friends for a long time. Janet is a really great photographer - especially for birds.

We slowly birded for about 2 1/2 hours and walked a mile and a half (per Judy's inseparable pedometer).

I was really proud to able to put Janet on her first Bobolink of the year. Other birders have done that for me ("do you have a whazzit?") on many occasions, but this was my first time leading the way. Better yet, the Bobolink came with a matched pair - even I got great pics of both the posing male and the much harder female! The male kept up antics - including overhead aerial when a nest is nearby - to draw attention away from the family. Once we figured out we were near the nest location, we shot a few pics and left them to their normal activities.

Singing male Bobolink
Janet's pics will be much better. I just felt really proud I could put her on the exact spot for the Bobolinks (must be the name - smile...) she needed this year.

In addition, Janet had brought her iPod, so when we saw a brief glimpse of a dinky bird at the edge of the pond, she could play and verify the lovely song of her lifer Marsh Wren we were hearing. High fives! What a lovely gurgling wren song! Lacking Aaron Copeland, anyone have ideas of an extant classical music composer to whom to suggest the song as an adapted inclusion in a musical score?

My "lifer" companion, photo-biographer, and general love of my life - Judy - took a pic of Janet and me at the start of our walk.

Judy took another on the trails. It is fantastic that DNR keeps the main trails mowed but does not mess with the natural habitat! In my experience locally, Wetzel is truly unique! We are in the Savannah Sparrow habitat. Bobolinks are just "aways down the road". You might notice the fact Janet has her pant legs tucked into her socks. We do as well. Our normal protocol at Wetzel is to "tuck and spray" lower extremities with DEET as a tick barrier. It is not a big deal, but it is easy and helps.

The Bobolinks were in the same area as last week , but a different specific location. It leads me to suspect that there at least two breeding pairs there this year. We started at "6", and the Bobolinks were at "3".  Round trip was 1.5 miles. Last week they were between "3" and "4".

We were lucky enough to get pics of both the posing male, and the feeding female. We watched the female with bug in mouth - probably a dragonfly - checking out several locations before heading back to the nest. My guess is that she wanted something for everyone.  On many occasions I have seen my "deck birds" stuff their cheeks before leaving. Maybe a big family is why? I suspect Momma Bobolink was just trying to make sure everyone would get something. She tried (bug in mouth) in at least 4 spots before heading to the nest. Fascinating! I think if I ever wanted to take home a dragonfly for the kids, I would take one first, and then go back out for more for the others. On the other hand, I am not sure what I would do faced with gaping mouths and no knife or ability to wield one to slice my catch. Certainly I would not want to give my kids the impression of playing favorites!  "Sorry 'Bobeeta', 'Junior' eats first!"  Well there were plenty of d'flies, so I am sure "every-bob" got fed! :)

Female Bobolink with d'fly food for kids
The most abundant bird was the Savannah Sparrow. We must have seen at least two dozen, and were quite amazed at the morphological variations we observed.

- insert Savannah pics -

Oh! Not to forget other "flappy things". Lots of dragonflies and many butterfly species. I think dragonflies must be the preferred food of the blackbird family - which includes Bobolinks  - who would have thought about birds eating dragonflies?  OK, I can see the resemblance between Bobolinks and RWBB. Learning am I!

I well remember watching a dragonfly last year at Holland Ponds and waiting for it to land so I could get a pic, when a female Red-winged Blackbird caught it in the air and took off. I wonder about the "ode guys"  (dragonfly catchers) with big nets trying to catch dragonflies when a bird with essentially tweezers (i.e., bill) can catch them in mid-air. Now THAT would be a pic! I can just imagine a cartoon of good buddy Darrin O'Brien chasing "odes" with tweezers. Ha!

OK, Darrin, here are a few for you to ID for me. I am calling them all "clearwing dragons" because I can see right thru the wings. For communication reference I named them all myself. I'll update after you have a look.

Note: I just updated the photos with the right names per Darrin's IDs - Thanks Darrin! Not a true "Clearwing" in the bunch - so much for my naming efforts... I must have been thinking about the Hummingbird Clearwing I shot on the next trip - but that was a butterfly ... OK, now I can see it - or see thru it as the case may be - clear wings are rare in b'flies, but too common in d'flies to mean anything. Interesting!

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) - I called it Yellow-striped abdomen clearwing
Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia) - I called it Rocky Clearwing 
Per my reference, this  looks like an immature male. Interesting that I thought it was a totally different species than the abundant bulky white-tailed things that are so common there.

Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta) - I called it Yellow-butt-dot Clearwing

We had a wonderful day, and can't wait to bird with Janet again. Great fun! Not only that, but she again showed me a new trick with my camera. I actually read my camera booklet, but never knew what some things meant in practice. I have been too complacent just getting a pic to possibly adjust to get a better pic - and obviously need help. (Thanks Janet! My Clay-colored Sparrow pics a couple days later benefited greatly!)
Wetzel is an amazingly unspoiled natural place so relatively near us. I highly recommend any local birders to visit the Wetzel  "Friends"  website, and if you are a Facebook user, to "Like" them (link on the referenced page). Community support for such unspoiled places is essential to guarantee perpetuity - especially in these hard economic times.

We anticipate birding with Janet again soon.

What fun!!!

Note: Rob Golda (Hiking Michigan) made a great map for Wetzel SRA. Another fantastic addition to Wetzel was the recent posting of trail maps by the Michigan DNR (per my photo above) on posts at trail branches so you can see where your are and where you might want to travel. We really appreciated these - thanks DNR!!! Between Rob's map and the DNR signposts, it is really easy to navigate! Check it out!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Michigan Prothonotary Warblers and Great-Crested Flycatchers!

2011-06-03 West Bloomfield Birding - OC Nesting Prothonotary Warblers

Following postings of Oakland County Prothonotary Warblers on the Southeast Michigan Birders list, our friend and mentor Ed Lewandowski called us up and asked if we wanted to bird with him. He knew it was perfect "Setzer birding" - that is: it was local, nice weather was predicted, a rest facility was available if needed, and there was a decent chance of seeing new birds. Ed knows us well. Sure; yes, yes, yes! What a great teacher and mentor. Thanks again Ed!

I also offer many thanks to Leslie, Kathy, and Mike for pin-pointing the location and increasingly accurate directions on the "Michigan Birders list" and for "firing Ed up"!

First to set the stage:

Last night Judy and I were walking/birding around Streamwood. Birding was not great - too many leaves! After awhile, we just really enjoyed sitting on our neighbors' deck and chatting awhile while watching the forest. We told Gary and Linda we were going out tomorrow with a friend to see a Prothonotary Warbler. (Geez. This does not look like much in print - but just try saying Pro-tho-no-tary Warbler (wrong!) or Pro-THON-o-tary Warbler (correct). And say it in mixed company. Well, anyway, off goes Linda - bending her recently hurting neck looking at imaginary birds in the forest behind her home! Fun!

It was very significant to me! I realized that with a straight face I had said something that was always very strange sounding thing to me before, and a source of humor. I spoke the names of fanciful - yet real - birds. I realized that I now must have fallen into the very strange - almost sci-fi - world of being a "birder"! I talked some "weird talk". Whew! Am I "are one" now? Guess so ...

So back to the story.

Not only did we get the advertised Prothonotary Warbler, but we saw (and I photographed!) a pair together. And we saw their nest hole. Yes! They are nesting in Oakland County! We had seen them at Magee Marsh (Ohio) last year and also this year and marveled at their beauty, but this was a Michigan lifer. I think it was also one for Ed - certainly an Oakland County lifer! Whee!

Not only a Prothonotory Warblet (amazing in itself), but a great pic!!

A pair of the most fantastic warblers. In love  - in Michgan!

Prothonotary Warbler eats blue dragonfly

Not only the pair of Prothonotary Warblers, but also a Great Crested Flycatcher talked to us incessently and posed for pics! This was only the second time I saw one, and the first time I had really good looks. Great indeed!

There were lots of other birds as well, including a Hairy Woodpecker feeding young in another dead tree. Alas, it was too far away for pics, but we could see a small head occasionally pop out of the hole.

In addition to birds, we saw a snapping turtle on the path, many butterflies, and more species of dragonflies (bird food) than we have ever seen at one place before.

Incessant talker!

OK - just an amazing shot of a Great Crested Flycatcher in flight!

Geez! What deck talk this will make!!! (Yes, I think "I are one" - a birder ...). Makes for interesting - albeit bizarre - conversations with regular folks. Thanks Linda for understanding, and being so knowledgeable as to put on a great charade to exemplify what birders must look like! I do hope your neck is OK! Fun! And, it was all true.

Then we went to Drayton Plains to see Mike Mencotti's Common Moorhen (more good deck talk,and another local lifer), but without location specifics and with the flightieness of birds, we "dipped" = birder talk for we missed it. We walked the whole circuit around the ponds there. From its distinctive song, I added a Common Yellowthroat to my OC life list.

I plan to drop a bunch more pics on this blog (or more likely on my PBase site) later, but for now just want to get the initial story "out there". Ed has always been our "lucky charm" for local lifers, and indeed we seem to do likewise for him. Fantastic day!

Go to the West Bloomfield Woods Nature Preserve and Trail Network. This is off Arrowhead Road just south of Pontiac Trail. We parked in the main lot and walked across Arrowhead to a newly opened gravel trail on the bed of the former Grand Trunk Railroad.  As Leslie and Mike had indicated, the Prothonotaries were about a couple hundred yards down the trail. Ed was surprised to see that a formerly closed area was now open for hikers/bikers and birders. I was personally amazed that I found an alternative to our beloved Holland Ponds, and that it seems to have far more diversity and potential than Holland. Great day indeed! It will also be fun on return visits to explore the park itself.

Most Michiganders have no idea what it is like to live without easy access to public lands within a suburban environment (...says the guy from California ...). "Backyard birding". Magee Marsh may concentrate migrating birds, and the Prothonotary Warblers are often the birds people remember best, but they are nesting right here in Oakland County! Go local!

Thanks Ed!!! And thanks all for the inspiration and references from the list that started this fantastic day!!

Go Bird! Go local!
- "Dr, Bob"

Friday, June 3, 2011

May 2011 Ohio Trip

2011-May 08-09 Northwest Ohio - Magee Marsh and Metzger Marsh

This was the most amazing ever trip to the area. We actually went during "The Biggest Week in America Birding". Despite the crowds we avoided last year - we hate crowds - we really benefitted greatly from the combined talent of local and international guides as well as the expertise of "just regular" birders.  Next year we will again go during the most crowded week. Wherever and whenever else can you harness the expertise of so many birders at one time.

I have hundreds of pics to process before I fill out this blog, but needed to drop it in now as a "placeholder" ... Stay tuned ...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spring 2011 - Local Birding in Southeast Michigan

(Pics enroute ... come back again)

Interestingly, today Judy and I walked locally at Streamwood  and one of our friends (and correspondent) kiddingly said "how can I know what you actually saw when you never post photos anymore"? Ya, sure - point taken.

I am quite embarassed I have not posted since February. This has been the best spring for birding around here ever in my short birding life! Yes, I have been meaning to update my blog, and I am really embarrased! I am really been proud of the fact I have a blog and that many people like it. Thanks so much! Here is my start.

Yes, it has been a great spring! What to do? Work on my hundreds of pics, and try to find words to express my excitement and joy at dozens of new lifers, or go birding? I guess y'all know my choice. I have been "doing" rather than writing. I have often posted sightings and "rambles" on the southeast Michigan birder's listserv, but my postings have done nothing for this blog.

Now the darn leaves are out, and the heat and humidity return. Maybe it is a good time to catch up.

The greatest thing about this spring was that the temperatures were cool (like a high in 50's on a good day). While we enjoyed non-freezing temps and got out birding, the plants did not have enough warmth to go "all out". It is the first time I remember migratory birds arriving before the leaves. I guess they must have had a few bugs to eat enroute to their final destinations, but I am sure the bugs were not in normal quantities. All the better for us I suspect! No leaves, lingering migrants needing more  food before continuing north, and few 'skeeters - whew! Great spring for birding for humans and photographers!

We also followed the recommendation of a scruffy man we met at Beaudette Park this winter while we were observing the diving ducks that concentrate there in open water when local lakes are frozen. We normally just go to Beaudette to see the ducks, and when they leave, so do we. Scruffy man (cloaked in winter hair camo) said Beaudette Park is great for warblers during migration. Try it. OK, fine ...

Well he was right! He also said that he often sat on a picnic table overlooking the forest and could see warblers. Right again!

We were so lucky to see two birders at Beaudette Park when we made our initial spring visit this year. We watched them surveying the trees, and respectfully paused in approach, and they waved us to come in. It turns out our "winter friend" - now clean-shaven and no longer looking  homeless - remembered us. "Dr. Bob and Judy". Easy for him - we did not look much different except for lighter jackets, and one of his birding friends is named Judy. Huh? Eventually a few synapses fired and I remembered the now-shaven Bill from our winter walks. This time he had his friend Gordon (another excellent birder) with him.

It did not look like they were seeing much until they said "look there" and named a bird. Sure enough!  Again and again!

Eventually I "got into it" and offered  places to look. They always knew the name of the bird. On a rare occasion or two (a "rattling" Baltimore Oriole for one), I could actually point out a good one for them before they saw it. Synergy!

So much fun! So many new local lifers!

We also birded other local places.

<< add places, lists, pics >>

On my own, I saw and shot a Black-throated Green Warbler right here at Streamedge!

<< add pic>>

Another highlight was definitely meeting Kevin Rysiewski at Stoney Creek. We met him near the lake down the path heading west from the parking area by North Dam. It overlooked where I had proposed to Judy over a decade before, and actually is a good fishing spot! Kevin - also a fisherman - confirmed the fishing idea. Needless to say, my best catch was recorded there! It was I who hooked the best!

<< add sightings, pics>>

Anyway, Kevin suggested we try the mountain bike trails at West Branch of Stoney Creek and told of wonderful birds to seek. We did so.


I later suggested to Kevin that he join the Michigan Birder's listserv. He did so. He has become an amazing contributor to "the list", providing not only bird records, but also specific mile-markers at West Branch, Stoney Creek where they were sighted. Not only has he become an important contributor to "the list", but also a wonderful resource to Stoney Creek Metro Park in compiling a species list. Great "kid"!!!  It is so nice to see Stoney Creek MP recognized as  a great birding hotspot in our area! Based on the Nature Center area, we always thought it quite boring, but we never walked the West Branch trails before Kevin suggested it.

I am so happy to report as I age: "And a child shall lead them"! (I think Kevin is in his 20's  - still a "kid" to me...). I proudly acknowledge this now as I age; yet I was - and sometimes still am - a great teacher. I find that I am learning so much from my juniors these days. And I am so proud to have the "kids" recognize me as a colleague (if you will) or at least as a birder to be befriended. What a great community this birding endeavor breeds!

Thinking here specifically about Kevin (but appropriate to many more "kids" who help us), Kevin tolerated my slower walking pace. In a way, it really did not hurt "the hunt" much. I seem to have learned that the more you slow down and wait, the more birds will come to you (hey - a "lesson"). But I remember specifically that Kevin (who knows the trails at West Branch so well) told us "there is just one more hill, then it is all down hill". Thanks! I needed that! What had started as a projected less than 2 mile flat walk had turned into about 4.5 miles on the "mid-difficulty" trails at West Branch. Whew! Yet, I doubt Kevin ever knew that when we started following him.

To our birder friends I say, if you ever pick us up along the way, or ever choose to take us with you from the start, we will go as far as we will. We have the choice to disconnect if we need to, yet we will continue to push forward. Our most memorable experiences have come by pushing ourselves. I tend to call us "fair weather birders" - and might add "lazy" sometimes. Yet, we will follow your lead when available!

Following Kevin on the trails was great. Just after the comment of "one more hill", I caught my first ever sighting of a Barred Owl in the wild! Similarly, walks with other birders always offered more new species after a time we might have normally quit on our own.

Gotta love "kids"!

Sure, even Allen Chartier is a "kid" compared to me. Certainly my buddy Ed Lewandowski; my mentor Jerry Jourdan; Darrin O'Brien; Janet "Kissin Hugs"; Cathy Carroll; Chris Goulart; so many more - sorry if I forgot anyone... just rambling ... Y'all push me and indeed I need it!

But when talking "kids",  of course James Fox, Harold Eyster, Sarah Toner, Andy Johnson - many more? WOW - real "kids"! Someday I want to bird with them! Hey, kids, lead me!

It is so wonderful to have inspirations! At this point in my life, I know I can never achieve what I might have done before, but I am so delighted that it seems like I have teachers and inspirations everywhere. Yes, and often a child shall lead!

Anyway, I dispersed a few pics throughout this  "ramble" and I hope you like.

And, once again, I thank all my mentors, friends and "kids" for the inspiration to share my "ramble"!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

2011-02-04 Winter visitors photographed on a rare sunny day!

2011-02-04 Dutton and Lapeer Roads

Judy and I went back yesterday to the place off Dutton Road that Ed made us start visiting. We were wondering if any birds were still around after the large snowfall this week. Judy always thinks of what the birdies do when there is a big snowfall.

We were in luck. The flock was much smaller than we previously saw there. Instead of about 100 individuals, it was now about like two dozen. But the great news was that all three winter visitors were present!

It was full sun. My "cheap" Canon DSLR only seems to get decent renditions when it is sunny. Judy's Kodak always seems to work just fine. I will always wonder...

Anyway, the lighting and pics were great. I can now add some decent pics of the three major "winter visitors" to my blog. Also in playing with my pics, I also found out that now I have a "birdie foot fetish". Allen Chartier commented on an earlier photo of mine that it showed the long curved hind toe that gives the Longspur its name. So now I gotta look at birdie feet. Hey - it turns out quite fascinating. Check them footsies out.

Lapland Longspur
  The related Snow Buntings also have  long spur as well. (Note I said related ...)

Snow Bunting
  I am starting to think of  the spiked "ice creepers" some fishermen use ... On the other hand, I also think about nuthatches, titmice, and others that I know have curved hind toes. Each is for a specific adaptive reason, so now I just gotta pursue my new fetish.

Horned Lark - showing horns
 The foot thing with Larks is different. Interesting. I did notice that they were in a different family than the Longspurs and Buntings. Maybe this is one reason? Maybe pursuing my birdie foot fetish may shed some light on bird families as well as environmental adaptations. Always learning ...

Horned Lark - showing straight hindtoe
 Anyway, just wanted to share my really great pics (if I do say so myself...) with everyone.