Friday, June 5, 2015

Senior Birding at The Biggest Week in American Birding

[Note: This is part of my imagined "eBook" about the Biggest Week. My last post recalled and linked some previous blog post memories I summarized for y'all (Hey! Check out the links!). I think possibly the "book" might be mostly for me, but I know some of y'all enjoy sharing our senior citizen adventures. Thanks for looking!  

I hope as I keep on going with this "book" it records the later years that Judy and I experienced in one special place in our lives.  Yes, we do lots of other stuff as well, but our Ohio trip in spring is now our "main adventure" annually.  It is so cool that the many manifestations of the internet allow me to record and share our lives! I truly wish my parents had had, and had used,  this opportunity so I would know something about their lives beyond what I saw day to day as they raised me! 
And ... I truly hope my son and grandkids will appreciate at least learning a tad about my life and perhaps become inspired to blog themselves! And, I hope that Judy's kids will also enjoy knowing a side of her that they never have yet shared! Such is another blessing of the internet for both of us and our descendants!

So first I just gotta put up one pic from the 2015 Biggest Week now to get your attention, but the real message is in the words that follow! Be assured that this year's birdie pics and more "rambles" will appear as I continue working on my "book"...

These are three of the five fox "kids" born at the den just behind the restrooms by the Windows on Wildlife  at Pearson Metropark this year. Yep! We love all wildlife and these were SO special!!! Easy access and how amazing!!! They do this every year, I think! We did see some kids last year as well! And we were able to share it with our friend Kristina who came over from Port Clinton to meet us there! SO great!!!


OK, here is the "story"/"ramble"/"chapter":

So weird how "life" works!

I started this post about senior birding prior to the Biggest Week in American Birding in May this year (2015). My hips had been acting up again, and I was just feeling "old".  Well, I am 70, so guess it goes with the territory! Much better than the alternative!  :)

Shortly after making the draft post, I went downstairs and fell totally backward in the kitchen! Boom! Hit head and had a minor concussion! Life changes SO fast!!!

Anyway, after a visit to ER and a CT scan, and a follow up a few days later, I was able to get down to the Biggest Week. Lesson here: If in ER and with Medicare and supplemental insurance, the CT scan is covered by insurance right then - albeit with a long wait ... The follow up requested by my doc (to see possible changes in the discovered brain "artifact")  before I traveled only took fifteen minutes to get in and get out, but took three days for approval! And this with Medicare ... but with the BCBS-N supplemental insurance driving the delay... So, we lost a few days, but still made it! Missed a few great events, but still had a great time! I add some 2015 pics here for the "book chapter" and will share most 2015 memories as separate posts.

SO ... here starts again what I started and never posted. It is just that more pertinent as I was quite slowed down in Ohio this year. Much of it is now past tense, but the info is still useful! It includes the former words in  my post (hate to "waste" typed words because I do not know how to type) - to which I have added many more words and especially pics tonight. I started off with an anecdote about getting around as an older person. Maybe just because I wanted to share a few really cool pics? Actually, no. It was about the minor struggle just getting out and about on some days. Yes, I know everyone feels this sometimes, but it really IS harder as you age. Then I move on to the seniors at Biggest Week story.

OK.   I thought I would put up some comments about birding The Biggest Week in American Birding as a senior citizen.

I think it will help some seniors with more limited mobility, but suspect it will also help others (and just not seniors!) who are down-right tired after a few days or many hours of birding!

Many people would just not understand if you told them that birding was hard work, but if you have ever stood for hours with things hanging around your neck like binocs and cameras, you will understand! It is like back when I was fishing bass tournaments. I would come home exhausted! "Why are you tired? You were just fishing." Well, if you have ever ridden inches above a turmoiled lake at 60 mph, then stood up on a rocking platform and flailed the water incessantly for eight hours you might understand! 

Similarly (albeit not so taxing) birding. After a few hours of walking - or even standing- while constantly twisting your neck into contortions that you would never try at the gym, then you know! Darn birdies just do not sit and pose!!! 

And I note I am not talking all seniors here. Many seniors with the active outdoors lifestyle can hike rings around  "city folk"! But I guess I am speaking as one who sat in cubicles for a few decades and last winter had been cooped up during one of the coldest winters in the Midwest.

On Wednesday the last week of April, Judy and I went to a free Senior Day at the Detroit Zoo. Twice a year the zoo offers free days for seniors. Great stuff!  Free parking, free tram rides, and other stuff. We had only gone in the fall before. It is a tad better in the fall - shortly after the kids are back in school - because the train is running and is free. This means you can walk one way to the end of the zoo, and get a free ride back to the parking lot. Especially important when the weather is hot! (Hint: Just do not wait until near the end of the day to get in line - it might take an hour or more!)

But my main goal this spring was to see the nesting Black-crowned Night Herons (BCNH)  near the Arctic Cafe. I had been reading about these birds for a few years on the Michigan Birding listserv, but by fall they are (of course)  gone. These are "local birds" and count in eBird. I counted 78 BCNH  birds and I am sure I missed any more hunkered down on nests in the rookery. Totally amazing sight! A few trees were involved, and we watched mostly nest building, but with only cameras, I am not sure what else might have been happening!

Anyway, point here is that we walked darn near the length of the zoo to get to my selected destination! I felt it the next day. Yes, the walk back was hard, and I needed to rest, but the many available benches with zoo critter views made it just fine.

Three great photo ops made it well worth the time for the day! Besides the time spent at the BCNH rookery, we found a spot with a lovely male peacock showing his wares for "anybird" interested! He flashed at a female and chased the male and female mallards out of the way! The mallards scooted, but not too bothered, and the lady peacock just kinda ignored him. Well, he tried! It was the first time Judy ever saw a full display - complete with the shaking and rustling! Wonderful!!

Black-crowned Night Heron at Detroit Zoo - converted to black and white

Black-crowned Night Heron at Detroit Zoo - "red-eye special"
Male Peacock at zoo. I never saw the "fancy hat" before!
Looks like a painting!

Anyway, back to the message in the title ...

In my "younger days" on the west coast (my 20s/ 30s), I hiked the Sierras: Yosemite; Kings Canyon; the site of the oldest living trees - the Bristlecone Pines - and more! And I DID see the oldest Bristlecone: "Methuselah"! (And no, I would not tell the exact tree to you even if I remembered exactly where!) A tree over 4000 years old!!! Double the age of Jesus Christ! Oh, the stories that tree could tell!!!

Indeed, I treasure my "old days"!!! But now I find that I am quite old as well! Yes, I am now in my "old days"!  No, not even approaching any age records, but  really slowing down and feeling it.

Somewhere in more recent years, I met some (actually many!) special people after I had become a birder following decades of being secluded in a cubicle during my later working years. While enjoying, but still figuring out social media, I asked a new friend Dawn Simons Fine if she might consider me as a blogger (so what is a blogger? Me, now - I guess!)  for the Biggest Week. Amazingly, she said yes! I barely knew about blogging, but did have some computer skills so felt confident. (Actually it does not take many skills to blog! Ask me how if you want to start sharing your memories with family and friends.)

So, now I blog.

And so ,.. again back to the title story (y'all know I "ramble"). I am posting a few thoughts about how accessible the Biggest Week is for seniors.

1) Access is the main thing for me. And, I am not talking access due to permits or any of that. I am talking access to easily get to where I can enjoy birds! I am thinking about my hips that could use a "tuneup"!  I cannot walk as far as I used to (by a long shot!). I have never visited any sites in northwest Ohio that required special permits. Cool! (Not sure about their state parks, but everything else is fair free game!)

Is it flat? Well most of the sites are! Not too much elevation change around any place in the Midwest, but especially near this area at lake level. The Magee Marsh boardwalk is flat. Also the boardwalk at Maumee Bay Nature Center (across the parking lot from the Convention Center where conference registration and events happen). These examples are perfect - as are so many more like in the Metroparks and near other centers like Ottawa NWR and the Magee Sportsman Center.  But even the "unimproved" (I use quotes because they are not paved - but really they are greatly improved...) trails in the area are mowed, well-maintained and mostly flat! 
Maumee Bay Nature Center boardwalk

Maumee Bay Nature Center boardwalk

How far do I have to walk?  I really feel this one in my hips! Really not very far! I offer several examples.

1A(1)  Near entrance at Magee Marsh!  Will I see many birds without going far down the boardwalk? Indeed! Lots! (I am not sure if a majority of interesting species for your life list, but experience tells  me a huge number!) Over the last couple of years, we have picked up several warbler species not seen on the rest of the boardwalk, and a special thrush or two; and most notably the Prothonotary Warbler posing so greatly the last couple of years (probably the most photographed bird there ever!)! And a "lifer pic" of a Scarlet Tanager!
Prothonotary Warbler near entrance to Magee boardwalk

Scarlet Tanager near entrance to Magee boardwalk!
1A(2) Window birding! When Judy and I get really tired, we sometimes just go sit at the "Windows on Wildlife" at Pearson Metro Park. It is a short walk from the parking lot, has restrooms (yes, another consideration for me) and the feeders there draw in great birds. We have seen many "lifers" there! Including Indigo Buntings! (Judy calls these her "blue birds" because they are really blue!) There is a convenient ledge for writing notes and holding your gear.
Our friend Kristina Smith and me at the window at Pearson MP
1A(3) Car birding! You do not even have to get very far out of your car! We especially like Metzger Marsh (near Magee) and the auto tour at Ottawa NWR (open every day during the Biggest Week (and normally on  weekends).  Keep the binocs on your dash! Keep your camera handy! Wonderful chances at new birds. And darn  near anywhere else in the area you can happen upon the many Bald Eagles that nest around there! And, muddy fields offer interesting shorebirds! Birders will tell you ... Last year  we got lifer Golden Plovers in a farm field that birders at Metzger told us about!
Here is a pic from the Ottawa Auto Tour I took last year of Great Horned Owl kids! 

Camo Great Horned Owl kids on the Ottawa NWR Auto Tour.
1A(4) Chair birding! We have seen many birders in folding chairs (yes, bring some!) just sitting at the edge of the forest near Magee Marsh watching for  birds! Get out of your car and set up right there! Yes, it is great for eating lunch, and a great way just to get off your feet relax any time. And there is always a chance to see a "lifer"!!! This year we also encountered a birder with another great idea. Take a lightweight folding chair on the boardwalk. Just sit and observe! The birds are always moving, so just sit and wait! We have also seen the kind of "walkers" that have built-in seats. Great idea!
Yep! I gotta do that!
There are benches along the boardwalk,  but this idea lets one sit anywhere!
Maybe with straps to make it a backpack? Cool!

1A(5) Ladder birding! And speaking about just sitting around looking for birds, I offer  that a charity "Big Sit" happens one day each year during the Biggest Week. Hey this guy (Tom Bartlett) sits atop a ladder all day just peering onto the forest and skies near the entrance to the Magee Boardwalk and recording all the birds he sees! Last year we were there as a flock of White Pelicans flew over midday! He recorded these as his 100th species for the day! 100 species! Imagine! Just sitting! And he was not done yet.  Indeed! You do not have to work those aging hips too far!!! Hey if Tom can sit atop a ladder and get over 100 birds, y'all can certainly get a lifer or two from your chairs! You can see he has quite a following!

2) Is it wheelchair accessible? Most if not all of the birding sites are wheelchair accessible! And all allow electric "scooters" as well!  Including BSBO, the Sportsman Center at Magee Marsh, the Nature Center by the BWIAB Headquarters at Maumee Bay Convention Center, the Windows on Wildlife at Pearson Metropark  and the Magee Marsh Boardwalk! Birders are extremely respectful of all with disabilities! Be sure you get your close special parking nearby if you have a handicapped sticker. From my experience, everyone is much more respectful of the handicapped parking here than (for example) in your local supermarket! And, birders and law enforcement are especially diligent about enforcement!
Magee boardwalk. Plenty of respect and opportunities for all!

"Mayor Bob" on Magee Boardwalk
If you see this guy, hang around him awhile. He knows everything about the Boardwalk!!!
We learned on our first trip there that the locals call him "Mister Mayor" We greet and honor him with this title
as we meet him every year. He likes being recognized. Great birder!

3) "Facilities". My bladder is not what it used to be ... and yes, I think about these things!

During the Biggest Week,you will find many "porta-potties" at Magee Marsh including several larger ones with handrails inside, and at the end of the road at Metzger Marsh. Both places have handicapped accessible (the big ones). They also have hand-sanitizers inside. For the water-available flush ones, I suggest Ottawa  NWR which has the best facilities (and also Dyson hand-dryers - these are SO great  I just really enjoy on new better inventions !)  and also the Magee Sportsmen Center.

3) Famous birders. This event draws famous birders from all over the world!!! You will encounter amazing birders from all over the world!!! Besides the local birders (like my friends and heroes Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman) you might meet many of your Facebook birding friends! I find this one of the most rewarding and special aspects of the festival! And be sure to talk to the "Yellow-hats" (the volunteer guides)!!! These people are experts on birds from around the world! They volunteer to guide at The Biggest Week! They generally offer guided trips in their part of the world, but really do know birds from everywhere!!! I will be doing another post about the birders we meet there! But I put up one special pic of an encounter at the entrance to the Magee boardwalk now. Judy and I had met Richard Crossley at Cranefest in Michigan last year. It was unplanned and so great to meet him again as he was leaving the boardwalk on his "birder's holiday" at Magee!

And bring your birding guides to be signed!!! I have books signed at the Biggest Week by Kenn Kaufman, Richard Crossley, David Sibley and more. This year I had Don and Lilian Stokes autograph a few books for me. If you do not have the books, usually you can pick them up at BSBO (and if you join BSBO, you get a 10% discount!). Here is a pic of the "locals" (happy to say they are also my friends!) who had just published a new book only a few days before. It will certainly be another best seller for the Kaufman Field Guides!
L2R: Jeff Sayre, Kim Kaufman, Kenn Kaufman - authors of the new guidebook on Nature in the Midwest
(With me as a "photobomb" while they were signing my books)
And ,.. again back to the title story (y'all know I "ramble"). I am posting a few thoughts about how accessible the Biggest Week is for seniors.

4) Photographs. As amazing as it sounds, you can really get great pics with just  a "point and shoot"! Even with a cell phone camera!!! These poor birdies have in some cases flown for thousands of miles and they are starving! Most have many more miles to go and they are just pausing before they cross a big lake! They went south to find food during our winters, and they now are coming north to do the other birdie thing. 
Sex! Yes, sex! Hey, what's it all about besides food and sex? :) And, indeed,  what matters? First personal survival! Survive! Eat! Then survival of the species! Have sex! 
Sounds great until you figure out the costs to the species just trying to survive ...  Just imagine if you had to go thousands of miles to find food in a better "store" during the winter. And, then you had to go back thousands of miles to find food again and have sex!!! Amazing - totally amazing! - how this all happens so that birdie life goes on!!! They do it! 
And yes, you will be "up close and personal" with hungry horny migrating birds!!! With digital photography, just shoot lots of pics and I will guarantee you will have captured memories of a lifetime!!!

I just put two pics here now to illustrate that you do not have to go to far to get a very special bird.  I have a "ton" more pics to use for more blog posts, but wanted to drop an example! This one was maybe 100 yards from entrance at Maumee NC Boardwalk! SX50 "point and shoot" camera. 
Eastern Screech Owl - red phase
"Owl be looking at you..."
Maumee Boardwalk - flat travel and fairly close to entrance
Here is another from that special place I told you about - not far from the entrance to the Magee Boardwalk.
Bay-breasted Warbler posing nicely.

5) I want to meet you there! And is another thing. You get a chance to meet ME! Indeed, my ego said to put this in the post, But, I just gotta tell you that it means a whole lot to me when someone walks up to me while I am out birding and asks "Are you Dr. Bob"?! It happens and I love it!!! It means even so much more when wife Judy is by my side. She is always amazed! Yes, less now than before because it has happened many times and I now know so many birders, but she still records every encounter in her diary! Hey! You really want to make her/our day? When you see me birding with any pretty lady at my side, just walk up and ask her "Are you Judy Setzer?" Heck, even if not Judy at that moment, I know she and Judy both will understand ...  :) And, of course, I will certainly love it!!! Here is a pic of my lovely wife for reference.  
Lovely wife Judy sporting annual Magee Marsh buttons on her hat.
Be sure to say "Hi"!
And a reference pic of me taking "Flat Stanley" to the boardwalk in 2014. I hope global Flat Stanley is still recognizable to parents! A great international communication starter for school kids!
Flat Stanley visits Magee Marsh wearing his BSBO "Birds Rule" t-shirt. 
And ... I need to add many thanks to lovely Judy (my wife and "biographer") who shoots lots of people shots as we bird together and deserves credit for many pics herein. It sure adds to the story, Judy! Thanks!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Recap of birding "The Biggest Week"

I am working n a couple of new posts about the Biggest Week in American Birding. One will be about what I call "senior birding". My hips just do not like hiking and standing as much as they used to and the event and area offer so many things that do not require extensive effort.  Another will be showcasing photos I have not shared previously. "Stay tuned".

But in thinking about it, I realize that most of y'all have not seen (or just do not remember) my previous posts about the Biggest Week! In MY mind it is all the same book! I just keep adding chapters thru posts here. But I also realize that I now have so many more followers and birding friends than I had when I started that my previous words (posts) bear repeating - especially with the Biggest Week on now (May 8 thru May 17). The birds are there NOW. And so are the birders! Go there! Do it!

So, tonight, I post links to my previous posts. I was there! I did that! I saw that! I experienced that! I was as excited then as now (maybe even more so then as now since I was a newbie then - but I doubt it! I am hooked! I am an addict!)  Besides just the famous boardwalk at Magee Marsh, you will see that there are many other opportunities. 

NOTE: I am not placing lots of photos in this present post because they are embedded in the previous posts. You DO need to click on the highlighted links (please ...) to go to these posts and see the pics and read the "ramble"! It's cinchy. Click and away you go! Then just use the back arrow to return here.

My first post was from 2010, the first year we went there. 
MY  dumpster!

Many great memories! But still a high point was seeing the Black-crowned Night Herons feeding at a dumpster by the Marathon station where fish cleaners threw the (mostly walleye) carcasses. (BTW, Great walleye and perch fishing there!!!) Sad to say, the last few years they now have a covered receptacle so the BCNH are not present! 

I never finished the 2011 post ... something about getting out birding locally and being overwhelmed with the amazement  of it all! Too many pics!

A better story in 2012, but never processed the many pics.Same thing happens every year! So many pics! So many memories I have not shared! But I try to get better!

I was accepted as a Biggest Week blogger in 2013, and feeling the pressure to produce made me a much better poster!

And, this year also had the first ever "Meet and Greet" for Facebook 
followers of the new FB group Birding Ohio (thanks Jeff Loughman!) ! We met SO many great birders at Porky's Pizza in the area! They had a second FB Birding Ohio the following year, but now in 2015, the event would take a stadium to accommodate the guests! Indeed! Birding there has grown!!

One post (click the link!) really tells how one (like me!) might become hooked on birding! It is not just about birds, but also the folks you meet!

Another 2013 post included local road detour conditions then, but also recommended places to go there. 

Other 2013 posts are:

This year (2015) there have been THREE of these wooden-like critters up much closer and personal than I ever saw before! FB is alive with pics of these "lifers" for most folks! Cool birds!

It is always a highpoint for us to record the license plates we see in the area during the Biggest Week. And, it is really enhanced by seeing the maps that they have at registration that also include the entire world! It is truly an international event!

Another amazing treasure! Many (maybe most?) folks only know woodcocks from hearing their mating flights. Not so here! You can almost be guaranteed seeing a woodcock somewhere near the Boardwalk! And, for the past two years now, we were privileged to see the new chicks!!! It is more than just a "lifer" - it is an intimate glimpse!

I think this was the prelude to the blog post I have in the works for seniors. I was having trouble with my leg/hip. But there are a great many alternatives around there that do not require extensive walking! It also mentions what you might learn by attending the many seminars at the BW! Like ... what's a covert?

2014: We went down early. Geez, should have done so this year (2015)! My buddy Chuck Owens and so many others have been posting great pics for over the last week ... But, no matter; whenever we go,  there are great birds and great people! We can only afford so many travel days ...

It is really amazing to seethe parking lot empty!

Another reason why I am working on a senior blog post. You do not have to interact with big crowds or go far to have life experiences during the Biggest Week. This was the first time we ever saw a fox in the "wild"! I think they habitually "nest" at Pearson MP in Oregon OH!

And, if you can ever see a parking spot at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) at the beginning of the road to Magee Marsh,  jump on it! We just lucked onto one! There is a ton of stuff going on there! There is a great optics tent where you can try out a huge variety of binoculars and scopes in all price ranges. The BSBO store has a ton of books, t-shirts and other bird-related merchandise, many great staffers, and a window looking out at their feeders. But, foremost is the bird banding! You get to see the birds as they are caught in mist nets and, after banding, are brought before the audience before being released! Amazing! All done by professionals and trained birders, and all lending more to understand our lovely feathered friends!

YES! It is all true! 

really like my "rambles" and hope you do too! No pics, but I put pics into each of my previous posts.  SO, you just gotta "click" on the embedded references to see the "chapters" in the "book" I am writing! Do it!

Hope you enjoyed! 


It is YOUR TURN!  Go for it! Spring birding during migration is all great! See you there!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Biggest Week in American Birding - A fisherman has become a birder! I FEEL IT!

Caveat: Anyone who knows me also knows I tend to "ramble"! Yep! And here I give insight into my past as well as how my new overwhelming fascination  of things that tend to fly rather than submerge. Hey! Birds are just things from the skies rather than things from the depths, but it is all similar! And, birding is much more easily accessible! Bear with as I talk fishing and show similarities. I think you will enjoy!

Yeah. It is a long one, but cheaper than buying a new book! Right?! Hey print it out and bring to The Biggest Week In American Birding, and I ("Dr. Bob")  will autograph your copy! (Geez! If anyone did that it would really make my day!!!)

I gotta admit it. Winter depresses me! I am am an outdoors person, but as I age, I find it is increasingly more uncomfortable to get outdoors in winter.

Besides that, I get SAD. Yes, during holidays I become very sad thinking about all the relatives, friends and mentors who have passed away. I think everyone does. Yes, I treasure that fact I am still here (!), but being cooped up magnifies it. And, then there is SAD = Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is a mental thing. Thinking tonight, I suspect it is like the "homeside" equivalent of PTSD, but nowhere near as tragic. I just cannot imagine what our returning vets must feel! (Please help them as you can!!!)

That said, my SAD funk has lifted! And I want to share some wonderful springtime optimism about birds and life in general.

This week I was energized! I had been feeling physically quite poorly (hey, I AM 70 years old ...), and various things were putting me down. Went to doc, and after a regimen of prednisone, I am happy to report all systems fired up quite fine! I caught up on lots of things on my "list". Judy and I got out and went birding. Did lotsa other things as well. And I still had energy to tackle (pun intended here) lotsa things at home.

Among the other things I did this week was putting back my displaced fishing tackle from when we cleared out the steps to the basement to have a new washer installed. I shot pics of redoing the replacement for my records.

This is where spring  birding and the Biggest Week  (finally!!!) come in! 

I have always thought that birding is quite like fishing! "You never know what you will catch!"  But, you gotta be in the right place at the right time!!!

As I post my fishing memories, I will equate them to the birding passion I now enjoy.

This is my "tournament bag". 
Geez! This dude weighs 24 pounds! I used to haul this plus eight rods to the boats where I was a non-boater "back deck" fisherman. As I age, weights become much heavier! But, in thinking about my birding now, I really cannot whine too much about the weight of a big lens camera around my neck as I go birding!

Gotta label the boxes. 

I had everything inside that I thought I might need for eight hours of fishing!  I will put a few pics of what is in the boxes below. But the main point for birders here is that instead of 24 pounds of specialized gear, all you need are a few ounces!!! A pocket with extra memory cards and maybe an extra battery! Big difference!!! You are "fishing" with binocs and cameras!

And while I think about it, the most huge difference between birding and fishing is that you can bird anywhere!!! No need for a boat! No need for water! You can even do it at home! (Yes, y'all with feeders knew that ...)

Goodies inside (more for me than you):


Rattling baits

Pretty stuff!!! In fact, so pretty we used to hang them as ornaments on our Christmas tree! (A great reason for us not to have cats!!!)

But you do not need pretty flashy things (at several dollars apiece!!!) to go birding!

I found a book of specialized maps in the bag. 
Great guide for fishing our area in Michigan! Best smallmouth bass fishing in the world!
A similar guide to birding hot spots in Ohio (published with Ohio DNR and Sea Grant funding) gives us birders the same advantage. I bought one last year at the Biggest Week, and it is great!
Great resource!

So many places to explore!!!

Here is  link from Ohio DNR to the lake Erie Birding Trail: When you go to the Biggest Week, you will soon realize it is about much more than just the Magee Marsh Boardwalk! There are tons of places to explore!

Also check out this great link to birding hotspots in nw Ohio the area of Magee Marsh:

Another cool thing about birding now is that you can get lots of great up to date info online for the Biggest Week  as Kenn Kaufman updates his Crane Creek blog during migration. Another great source is the Black Swamp Bird Observatory

So many places to go! I only wish finances allowed us more than the few days we will go this year!

But what will you likely get?

Pause a moment while I post a pic of my fishing days:

Yes! First place!!! "Lifer"
Yep! I got one , and also a second place (both with my buddy Terry Monaghan) in larger tournaments. Also took a few trophies in my Clinton Valley Bass Anglers club tournaments!

OK, I have no clue of how many "lifers" I shot at Magee Marsh and surrounds during the Biggest Week, but they far surpass even my most imaginative dreams during my fishing days! Here are but a few:

GHOWlets - I use the standard abbreviation for Great Horned Owls here (GHOW) and think it cute it add a suffix for "dinkys"in the nest. What great camo! What a "lifer pic"!!! Ottawa Auto Trail 2014.

Another "lifer pic"! Indeed, Scarlet (Tanager) I DO give a damn!

Chestnut-sided Warbler. SO many lifer warblers I really lost track sometimes!
Ruddy Turnstone. A bit far off, but amazing I saw one!

Geez! My memories go on and on, but my energy is becoming limited tonight ...  and I did not even start to tell y'all about the amazing woodcocks we see every year - with their chicks some times (!); or the nesting eagles;  or the remaining shorebirds; and I barely mentioned the warblers that are the "main show"! And I did not note that there are great presentations from world-class birders and field trips, and so on ...  And I might have missed the opportunity to thank the fantastic "yellow-hats" (volunteers from around the world who lead trips on the Boardwalk and share with all present) except I do it now ...! I also missed talking abut the great stuff at BSBO like banding demos and the optics tent where you can try out amazing scopes and binocs. And I missed just doing much more than just to give a hint of what you might expect at the Biggest Week! Sorry about that! It is just the most amazing week of birding you will ever experience!

And, especially, I neglected to even begin to start to tell y'all abut the amazing friends we meet there!!!

But ... I hope I did give y'all a hint about what turns a  fisherman into a birder!  And I say a "hint" knowing quite well I have much more to say for the analogy! Not done yet with the analogy, but done for tonight ...

Go bird! Go to the Biggest Week! Enjoy Spring!!!

"Dr. Bob" - honored this year as a Biggest Week Blogger!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I am still here ... Recap 2014

NOTE: I am going to ramble about personal things in my last year and why I have not been keeping up my blog, and I am now going to also put up my last year's birding stuff here as well. If you want to skip the  personal part, quickly scroll down to the section with a headline in caps: START BIRD RECAP FROM 2014

It is hard to believe I have not done a thing with my blog since the Biggest Week in American Birding last year! Well maybe not SO hard. I did know I was neglecting it.

And, let me tell you I really feel bad about it!

Why did it  happen? Where/how/who am I?

First let me reassure you I am still alive. This does not sound like much without perspective, but at my advancing age, I get nervous when I do not hear from folks for a few months. Over the past two years, I have lost several of my college professors and mentors, my only two cousins (both younger than me) and several friends. Gone! Lost to me forever except in memories Not sos easy! Each time I learn of this, it hits me hard. I treasure and cherish the fond memories of the times we shared, yet each time I feel even older!

This contributes to my "writer's block" somewhat.

Another thing in my advancing life is that I realized I often used birding (and other fun things) as an excuse to not deal with the huge backlog of accumulated stuff I have around the house. It was really easy to ignore "stuff" when I was working. My life was: get up; go to work; commute; eat; sleep; repeat. And on weekends, go shopping and set up meals for the week. Cinchy. Not so bad! But "stuff" never left, and somehow just kept accumulating!

I still have some stuff from my biology days although I gave most of my huge library and seaweed herbarium to the UW decades ago.Most notably still here are a dozen mushroom models used in classrooms probably in the 1940s, a couple cases of unlabeled seaweeds collected in the 1890s (no scientific value, but lovely artifacts from Nature), a few older books, and especially one autographed by Alfred Russel Wallace!

I have stuff from my Space Shuttle days including launch and landing "covers" (envelopes stamped at certain post offices on the day of the events), mission patches, and assorted goodies.

I have stuff from my IT and project management days. Actually this is fairly easy to deal with. Too few fond memories of the pressures of that world. Recycle! But, in many cases they represent where and how I made a difference, so those few are harder to part with. And, yes, there were many good times as well, but few artifacts to deal with. I think the most interesting are the pics I took while in an office overlooking the Detroit River where I shot many of the passing freighters. I would like to photoshop the pics and pass to the group I know that archives freighter pics - Boatnerd. "Someday ..."?

And, importantly, I have many things from my parents. I am slowly sending the best to my son, his wife and grandkids. This IS fun!

And, I have more stuff! I still have my comic book collection. Doubt that it is worth much since I bought at the wrong time, but hate to "recycle" without some money! And my record collection of about 800 records. It is great  seeing vinyl coming back strongly! Music was such a huge part of my life. Many records are autographed by the likes of Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse, and other major bluegrass artists. These definitely need a great home! But I have all genre of records. Great bunch of  records including 70s rock all tracked at 1/4 gram. I would make  cassette tape of the record at first playing, then play the tape. Anyone interested?

I did make some progress. The largest of which was getting rid of my sports card collection. I lost a fortune (well for me it was a fortune...) on this. The removal of 80 cases of sports cards from the basement "pulled the plug" allowing me to shuffle the other stuff to evaluate, disposition, and dispose! SO much pending work!!! (... and SO many thanks to a neighbor - a retired cop (Thanks Ray!!!) -who dragged up many of my boxes into the garage so that I could evaluate,  and so the purchaser could reach the rest!!!) Geez! In my "old days " I moved these things several times myself, but age has taken a toll. And, Ray is far stronger than I ever was! Blessed and thankful am I !

OK, why did I put this on my bird blog? Well, mostly, it is "my blog"!  I get to "ramble" to my heart's content. But it would have been a bunch more fun just to go birding!!! But somewhere along the line, I realized that by just avoiding the home front, I would still come home to the very problems I had left. I realized that if I just got out and enjoyed life, I still had to come home to "stuff", and that I was leaving a very uncomfortable legacy to the eventual executor of my estate. Besides that, what I see as "treasures" will then become trash! Gotta get the good stuff to those who might appreciate!!! Soon!

But in the long run, it is just "stuff"! And what will it matter if I am gone? It would free my mind just to trash it myself and be free again!!! ... but I think I just addressed why I will not do that.

OK. Time to get along to the subject of my bird blog ...


When I last left my birding blog, we had just returned from The Biggest Week in American Birding. As finances allow, this is the only real trip we take beyond local birding. It is the highlight of our year! And it is not only the amazing birds that come thru there then, but also the wonderful friends we meet. What a great experience!!!

Yes, from my lack of posts it seems like our birding stopped there. But no!

I record "deck birds" daily (though I am quite far  behind in entering them on eBird ...) Actually, watching your bird feeders might teach you far more about birds than seeing them in the wild. Indeed the selection will be limited, but you can learn a huge deal about patterns and colors over time, but perhaps more importantly you will learn about behavior! What are food preferences? Who shows up at that time of day? Who intimidates whom?

You want pics? Start shooting your deck birds! Cinchy! You are comfortable indoors no matter the season. You might be amazed at the variety of poses you see!

But beyond that, there are several places where Judy and I go locally each year. Maybe we did not get out as much as usual, but we did have some high points on field trips.

For all of these, I am at least putting placeholders. I really have not "worked up" most of my pics yet, but sprinkle a few along the way.

Lake Saint Clair Metropark (LSCMP) - formerly known as Metro Beach) - May
We go there to see the Marsh Wrens It is really amazing to hear them chatter to each other!  We also go there too see the momma Great Horned Owl raising her kids in the washtub! What a gift to birders!

We sometimes get other photo ops! Judy did a great job with these Swamp Sparrows. !

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

[.... add Paul Poronto, Allen, Sarah, marsh wrens, bucket owls, screech owl and mating yellow warblers...]

Kensington Metro Park - July

This is Judy's favorite place to go birding! Birds will eat right out of your hands! We have had Chickadees, Titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, and an occasional White-breasted Nuthatch feed from our hands. And the park allows songbird feeding. Please do not feed the Sandhill Cranes! They are Judy's favorite bird and nest there, but it is not good for them, and potentially dangerous to you.

Auto Show!

Be aware! Be very aware!!!

[Add more pics/words to this place ...!]

Pte. Mouillee - August
This segment I now (having added a huge number of pics) here envision as a mental "write yourself into a blog" blog post! You will recognize many birders and birds. Just pretend you were there ...

It was a one day field trip where the local Audubon Society had permission to drive the dikes at Pte. Mouillee. Judy and I had hiked it a few times in the past, but we can no longer do that. We treasure the annual trip where 4 cars are allowed on the dikes for a special day with an Audubon chapter and always reserve early. With hundreds of pics from both Judy and my cams, and wanting to say something to tell a story about each pic, you might see why  I was stalled in my blog post. So, here's an idea. Write your own blog post (in your mind)! If you were there, you already have words at your disposal. If not, I am sure you will get a feeling about this trip. I suspect many birding field trips are as rich like this, so just imagine! Birding is SO much fun and we have a great community of copacetic friends we meet along the road! You will see many great birders from Michigan and Ohio here! I am not tagging, but I betcha you know someone!

A self-directed young birder's field trip we met there.

My four gulls - one is a lifer!

The rest of these are "un-shopped"! Local Michigan/Ohio birders will probably see folks you know. If you were there you will remember the birds we saw. If not, there might be some lifers hidden somewhere! Indeed this day would make a great "ramble" by itself (as I intended). These are just a few of the hundreds we took there then on the annual special day when we could drive it instead of the 5+ mile hike to and fro we can no longer do. And SO much more fun with a great group of experienced birders! Anyway, it will give you some idea of what a field trip to Pte. Mouillee is like.

Accolades to lovely wife Judy!

The following are lovely wife Judy's pics. It is SO cool that I not only have a companion, but also a "photo-biographer" so sometimes even I appear in pics! (Photographers will know of what I speak!) Judy loves shooting pics of people - they are larger and dot not move as fast as birds! But she also gets good bird pics! She "kicked my ass" so many times with the SX50 I bought her, I went out and bought one for myself! Gotta love it!!!

September - Detriot Zoo

The Detroit Zoo has two free Senior Days each year - spring and fall. Lots of giveaways and free refreshments and Bingo for prizes, but mostly we love the free tram rides and free train rides. We can walk the length of the zoo and take the train back to the entrance. We really need it by that time! (Just do not wait until near closing time!!!)

Besides the normal captive critters and the wandering peacocks we see up close and personal, we enjoy seeing the visiting Black-crowned Night Herons (who nest there) and Turkey Vultures up close and personal enjoying sneaking food from the zoo critters.

Birds of a feather flock together, but when the cafeteria is open, forget that old story!

If "Dr. Bob" did that, he would be arrested!

And yet ... gotta advertise to get your gal ...

Saddle-billed Stork! Bizarre, yet for real! SO great!!!

September - Selfridge Air Show

Not birds, but I shoot flying things. I see birds everywhere! And sometimes birds in the clouds and I even see angels!!!

Blue Angels can go there only in the hands of God's angels!

I cannot help but thinking about the song "Great Speckled Bird"!

September Hawk Fest at Lake Erie Metro Park (LEMP)

Another annual favorite! The Hawk Watch (an on-going event where migrating birds are recorded daily for a couple of months) was great fun this year with having a chance to meet and talk with great photographer and volunteer counter Andrew Sturgis! We also love the annual weekend Hawk Fest put on by Lake Erie Metro Park (LEMP). Lots of great presentations! And a local hawking club gives us an opportunity to get up close and personal with gorgeous birds!!! Would have been a huge "ramble" about the Hawk Watch and also the Hawk Fest had I not been pre-occupied ...  Just some of many pics from  the Fest that I already "shopped", and some from the Watch. Again, you just have to imaginee your own blog ...

Lovely wife flaps in eagle nest!

A few more:

Young birder trip to Hawk Watch

A couple who birds together ... !!!

The race is on!

October - Sandhill Crane Fest near Battle Creek

Another annual trip! Hundreds of Sandhill Cranes flying in to roost for the night! Activities all day long with a crane-fly-in "finale"!!! Fun!!!  And another place to see great  birds up close and personal with pr esentations by rehabbers and a falconing club. Both Judy and my pics here. Uncropped ...

Good birding friends Heather and Ken Slayton and grandkids.
New crop of birders!

Yes. I "tank out" after a while birding. Oh, well ...

October - Hawk Watch (not the earlier weekend Hawk Fest, but a special trip to ongoing Hawk Watch set up by Charles Owens). The fun keeps on going! Write your own blog post ...

Thanks for my birthday card, Joanne! !!! 

Flashing my R. Bruce (he is a star performer at Biggest Week this year) t-shirt with BSBO supporters.
2014 - the rest of the year

Otherwise I just hang out and daily record deck birds - mostly over morning coffee. I get a couple hours birding every day. I make lots of notes that probably no one will see, but it pleasures me! I am very far behind in putting them on eBird. But I try. I also shoot hundreds of pics. Right now I am fascinated with "Shades of Grey"! Yes, that too, but I am talking birds here! ;)  Juncoes are SO hard to shoot and the light on my shadowed deck makes it even worse, but I see an amazing amount of shades! I know some are "girls" and some are "guys", but the distinction is lost due to the entire spectrum and especially photographically.

Anyway, I know this 10-point dude is a guy! (Yes, we have lots of other critters here too!)


I know my photographer friends will see the great opportunities I had to make most of these pics and the hundreds more pics memorable, but I also know my limitations. Yes, Judy and I got great pics if treated right (when cropped and shopped)), but I am sure photographers will know the burden of needing to "fix" each pic before posting!  And I am sure y'all especially know now another reason my blog is so far behind. If I wanted perfection in each pic, I would never post anything! Gotta fix my expectations in my own head! I really think my friends and followers really just like to see me posting again  ...
Well, that's my story for the night ... and for this last year ... It overwhelmed me! Now to move forth and try to regain my "write thing"! My "ramble thing"!

I know I did  a year's worth of bird stories/"rambles" - albeit mostly only in hints and some pics. Geez! So many possible  - wonderfully delightful and possible mentally chewable - maybe even memorable -  - rambles I missed"!!! But I hope it will be fun for y'all to "fill in the blanks".

Now I think I at least cleared my head enough to start writing posts again ...

Hope you enjoyed the "incomplete version" ...! :)