Thursday, October 25, 2012

Other Amazing Places

We recently spent a week or so in the Reno area for a family reunion. We haven't been there for two years. It had been long enough that the powerful beauty of the Great Basin hit me like a reunion of it's own, a reunion with something overwhelming that I had somehow forgotten I was missing. I have a few photos to share. : )

Looking west in the Sierra Valley from Dyson Lane.    

 Shortly before I took the picture above, we met a mink strolling down the road. It doesn't look like it here, but the Sierra Valley has extensive wetlands.

Looking north from Dyson Lane.

Three Ferruginous Hawks were dog-fighting overhead at this spot.  A few years ago, I found my one and only flock of Lawrence's Goldfinches playing around this green gate.

Looking west on Dyson Lane. 

Sierra Valley is famous for its raptors, and traveling Dyson Lane, which transects the valley, is a favorite route  to find them. We had around thirty Western Red-tails, including several dark phase birds, a few Northern Harriers, a few Ferruginous Hawks, and some Kestrels. Prairie Falcons, Golden and Bald Eagles, and Rough-legged Hawks are also regular here. Black-billed Magpies and Mountain Bluebirds are often perched on the fenceposts.
Irrigated hay fields are bird-rich.
 This field was full of White-crowned and Savannah Sparrows, hunting Ferruginous Hawks and Northern Harriers, and Western Meadowlarks.
Pyramid Lake is named for the triangular island on the left.
 Our trip is never complete without a visit to Pyramid Lake. It belongs to the Paiute tribe, despite many attempts by the state of Nevada to gain access to the water rights. Thousands of Western and Clark's Grebes are generally present. Unfortunately, they were actively feeding while we were there, and I got lots of pictures of lake water, but no grebes. There were also a few Common Loons and Eared Grebes.

This immature White-crowned Sparrow was more cooperative.

Trust me, it was a Savannah Sparrow. : )  

And I close with the only raptor picture I managed to get - a little Kestrel in the midst of lunch.

And so I got my Great Basin and Sierra Nevada fix at last. The stark beauty, the scent of the sagebrush and the feel of the wind got into my blood again, and for a few days after we came home, home seemed strange. But the jet lag has worn off, and the local scenes provide me with fixes of another sort - images like these reminding me of why home is the most amazing place of all.

Paw Paw Water Tower

Halloween House, Paw Paw

Briggs' Pond in Fall Dress

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another Kind of Blossoming

This time of year it takes me forever to get anywhere. I am distracted by the color, the harvest, birds, farm stands, and just the beautiful light that it seems only happens in the fall. This morning was typical. I was on my way to the library for some research. It's about a fifteen minute drive. I left home at 10:00 AM. About a mile down the street I had to stop and take this picture.

The earth rests after the harvest.

I'll spare you the other four pictures I took. Then I made pretty good time for another 3 miles or so until I came upon these characters. I was able to roll down the window, get the camera out of the case, boot it up, zoom in and still catch them before they quite got away.
Sandhill crane family

And another look

Then I made it all the way to the bank, where I spent about five minutes. Now I was about .2 miles from the library, but somehow my car didn't turn in there - Briggs' Pond and Maple Lake are right down the road. Why not? 

Briggs' Pond from Red Arrow Highway

This female Peking Duck disturbed the serenity of the pond by quacking loudly at me until she realized I really DIDN'T have any bread for her! Her two following males just looked embarrrassed.

After this, I finally headed to the library - total elapsed time since I left home - one hour. I'm not sorry!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Faces Change

A few new birds came in this week at Maple Lake, joining the resident Mallards, farm ducks and Mute Swans. These coots, including a couple of juveniles, were keeping company with a Pied-billed Grebe. Some of the coots were diving, which I always find entertaining. It just seems wrong! : )

This immature Double-crested Cormorant looked similar to the one that used this same spot to rest on a few weeks ago. 

There was also a female Shoveler and a couple of Gadwall present, but they were too far out for pictures. Here's a picture of where they were, though. Feel free to zoom in and look! : ) 

Beautiful Maple Lake in Paw Paw

Until next time, best wishes for wonderful finds in your own amazing places!

Harvest time

The grape harvest is in full swing - suddenly the rural roadsides around the vineyards are filled with parked cars, trailers, crates, porta-johns, and dozens of people bent over the vines. At the winery in town, large trucks are loading up the pulp from the pressings and taking it away. This is what the fuss is all about!

Wedding flight - Bug alert

I caught this termite flight in the woods behind our house the other day. So fascinating! Of course, I hope they don't wind up starting up a new colony under my porch!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Morning Visitors

These Wild Turkeys were part of a flock that was scratching around in my driveway yesterday morning like giant chickens. Sometimes I am late for bird trips. Sometimes I don't make it at all. These are some of the reasons why! : )  ADD, did someone say? I don't know what you mean! What were we talking about?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where are they now?

When I looked at this empty martin house, it made me think about all the life that filled it only a few weeks ago. I thought about those seemingly fragile young birds and their parents on their incredible journey to the south, and thought again about what a miracle this world is, and all the life that fills it. Safe journey, martins!

On a more technical note, here is an interesting link to an article about how to use Nexrad to track the migration event.

How to use Nexrad to follow migration

Take care, all, and thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

This shower almost caught Shine and me during our morning walk. I love the cloudscapes this time of year.

The sun is never too far away, though. 

But what's this I see peeking out from amongst the trees? 

Yes, folks, I think it's autumn I see in the distance over the ripening bean fields. The blackbirds know all about it. They are gathering in their fall flocks already. Most years a few thousand of them do this in the trees around our house. It's like being a in a stadium full of bird baseball fans! They chatter and swear and argue for a couple of days. Then suddenly we realize what the ringing quiet means. They are gone. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

They Are Everywhere!

I checked out the lakeshore at South Haven yesterday afternoon. There were a few Barn Swallows moving through, but that was pretty much it for birds, except for the expected gulls and hybrid mallards. It was still a great day to be outside, however.

South Haven Lighthouse 9-3-2012

There were a couple of young Northern Cardinals in the shrubbery, and I found a beautiful pokeweed plant.  I love pokeweed. It looks like it is from another planet. The fruiting stems look like the tentacles of a monster from a 50's Hollywood B movie, and I am not sure what is going to grow out of those fruiting bodies! : ) 

Happy Fall to all!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Goose Birder-ing?

I was startled to find this Canada Goose grazing at my feet when I tore myself away from the view through my scope at Briggs' Pond today!

Nature's Waltz

I spent an entertaining few minutes this morning at Briggs Pond, in Paw Paw.  At least three Great Blue Herons and a Great Egret were stalking the pond’s aquatic residents. Wood Ducks are starting to look like themselves again as they molt out of their cryptic plumages. Cedar Waxwings were doing perfectly respectable imitations of swallows, zipping around over the pond fly-catching. I managed to follow a couple in the scope for a little while. It was great fun! The resident Belted Kingfisher was making his presence known, rattling around the pond in between resting on a dead tree in the pond. If you ever go  to this spot on Commercial Street, be sure to check out the tree. It is a very popular roosting spot for many of the pond’s birds, including the herons, ducks, kingfisher and swallows. The tree has figured in many of my photos, although most of them don’t make it on to the blog. But I know there are better photographers than I am out there who would be able to do it justice!

I had a nice video of the egret, as well as a picture of the Canada Goose that I found grazing at my feet when I looked away from the scope but computer land is giving me fits today and doesn't want to upload them. Maybe I'll have better luck later! Thanks to all for your support and interest in this blog! And I'd like to close today by saying Hello and Welcome to our overseas readers in the UK, Germany and Russia! Leave a comment, we’d love to know you better!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Box Turtle

The sun felt good on his back. He did not understand the passage of time as humans count it, but he knew when it was time to sleep and time to wake up. He knew every stick and plant and rock in the small area he had lived all of his long life. Generally, he managed to stay out of the notice of humans. Today was different, however. As the sun warmed him, a loud noise rushed by him and made him draw in his head a little. The noise faded in the distance, then reversed itself and grew louder again. A sharp banging noise made him draw his head in farther. The gravel crunched, crunched, crunched. A human crouched over him and made clickety click noises, all the while making some kind of mouth noise. He watched her curiously. Then she picked him up from his sunny spot and put him in the grass off the road, all the while making mouth noises. Then she left him. He felt a moment of faint annoyance and then forgot her.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Gracefulness of Swans

The water is still quite shallow in portions of Briggs' Pond, forcing these Mute Swans to abandon their gracefulness as they cross the sand bar into the deeper portion of the pond. They remind me of a toy that I had as a child - I pulled it behind me on a string and the head and feet bobbed up and down as it rolled. I guess I am dating myself here! : ) See if you can tell when the mosquito landed in my eye!

And maybe someone out there would be willing to help me with my tree cataloging project in my yard. Most of the references I have are pretty confusing. When it comes to tree knowledge, I am about 5 years old. Today my question is, do these trees look like shagbark hickory.  They are so tall, I can't get a decent picture of the leaves, unfortunately. 

tree a

tree b

another view of tree b higher on the trunk

Any and all help gratefully received!

Ok, one last picture - this one is leaves. 

Thanks, again!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cooperative Green Heron

Recent rains have pretty much flooded the shorebird habitat at Briggs' Pond, but I was able to digiscope this cooperative juvenile Green Heron. He was working very hard at ridding himself of his natal down. I even managed a short video. 

If you look closely you can see his tongue sticking out. Also note all the down wrapped around his bill..

Feet are also useful in the process of getting rid of that itchy down. 

 There is always something to see when you are outside. You just need to look.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sandpiper Season

Well, shorebirds are starting to move through. Today there were around a dozen on the mudflat area of Briggs Pond. The species present were not too exciting, but still fun to see. And maybe an indication of things to come. I saw Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper and Solitary Sandpiper. I managed to get this picture of one of the Spotted Sandpipers - I think it is a juvenile.

Good birding to all!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Double-crested Cormorant Maple Lake, Paw Paw

The Double-crested Cormorant that has been present at Maple Lake continued to be present today. In addition, there was a hooded merganser, a pied-billed grebe and some wood ducks in eclipse, as well as green heron, great blue heron, and lots of swallows of the expected species.

Hanging the wings out to dry. I love this pose.

 A hooded merganser swims in from the right.
Just to the left of the cormorant you might be able to make out the merganser tucked against the side of the sleeping mallard. 

A pair of Paw Paw's resident mute swans take turns keeping watch.
Canon G12 10MP Digital Camera - Cameras & Accessories (Google Affiliate Ad)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Being Patient is Good

Birding teaches patience. Maybe that is why it is my karma to be an obsessive birder, because, over and over, it feels like I am learning this lesson for the first time. I learn it when I meticulously sort through thousands of Canada Geese and am rewarded by finding the one Ross' or Snow Goose out there. I learn it when I ignore the pain in my neck as I sort through spring warblers and am rewarded when a Blackburnian Warbler steps momentarily into the sun at the very top of an oak tree. And I learned it again this am when I made one of my regular stops at Briggs' Pond in Paw Paw. When I first got out of the car and took a quick scan around I thought, "Well, wow, absolutely nada." Then the single Great Blue Heron caught my eye. This is one of my favorite birds, and they are always photogenic, so I decided to take advantage of the beautiful light and see what kind of pictures I could get. I mumbled, "Wait right there," to the GBH and ran to get my scope and my camera.  He waited, and you see the so-so fruits of my work below.  As I fiddled with my camera trying to improve the exposure, the pond slowly came to life. I heard a Belted Kingfisher rattling away, a bright yellow American Goldfinch flew into the top of a nearby shrub, and I realized that behind the GBH was a sleeping female Wood Duck.  The Great Blue was feeding actively and successfully, being rewarded for his patient stalking. He must have caught four or five fish of varying sizes while I watched, and I learned that this bird, at least, drinks a bunch of water after each catch, to help it go down? I was also interested to see he caught and ate a fair amount of green matter with each fish. Salad to go with his sashimi!
Be patient! It's fun!

Ha! Got one!

Taking a break


Saturday, August 4, 2012

This Old Tree

This is one of my favorite trees in Van Buren County. It stands on the East side of 48th St. just a little bit north of 48th Ave. It always makes me think of the Tree of Life, and when I think of the Tree of Life, I think of this tree.It stands defiantly on the edge of this cornfield and creates its own crop circle because it shades the corn from the sun. I imagine its tough roots diving deep for the center of the Earth and its branches reaching up to touch the sky, and it feels like it will always be here, immune to time.