December 7, 2018
The first thing I do every single morning is check the weather forecast to see if it’s going to be a picture-walk day, a regular-walk day or a no-walk-at-all day. Today, the forecast called for no snow, no sleet, no high winds and no temperatures below 25 degrees (F). Perfect! An added bonus was that I had absolutely no commitments for the entire day. Double perfect! The whole day lay ahead of me with nothing more to do but walk and take pictures! I quickly decided that the best place to undertake such an adventure would be the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary–where there are always birds to photograph. http://birdsanctuary.kbs.msu.edu/visit/
Given that I had been quite cold taking pictures yesterday, I added a few extra layers today. But, as I stood outside the Visitor’s Center taking pictures for awhile, I started to get HOT!! It was barely 30 degrees (F), but the sun was shining and there was no wind—two factors that can make all the difference! I almost took off a few layers before continuing on my day, but chose instead to err on the side of caution and left everything on. Later in the day, when the sun disappeared and the wind picked up, I was glad that I did.
Even though I have taken a million pictures at the bird sanctuary in the past, I always enjoy my visits, and my leisurely walk around the perimeter of Wintergreen Lake. Taking pictures as I go, merely adds to my enjoyment. I like the challenge of locating interesting things to photograph, determining what settings to use on my camera, and trying to hold the camera steady enough to get tack sharp pictures. Sometimes, though, I am so excited about getting a particular picture, I totally lose my head and forget everything!
Songbirds, for instance, can be a particularly interesting challenge. For one thing, they’re very small—making them difficult to locate through the narrow tunnel of a camera lens. Small birds are also inherently hyperactive—flitting incessantly from one perch to another. More often than not, I barely have time to locate them before they flit off to another bush or tree. If they have a seed they are working on, though, they might sit still for more than just a nano second. This is how I happened to catch a few pine siskins who were feverishly trying to dislodge seeds from very small pine cones in a nearby tree. Prior to this particular walk, I’d never even seen a pine siskin and had thought that all the birds in the pine tree today were female house finches. I later found out that Pine Siskins do indeed look similar enough to house finches, and even belong to the finch family, but there are a couple of distinguishing characteristics.
For one thing, house finches are heftier birds than pine siskins and have a much thicker bill. Plus, siskins have longer tails and yellow coloration in the their wings. As a novice birder, all of this is news to me! https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pine_Siskin/species-compare/
By the end of my walk today, my list of identified birds included hooded mergansers, buffleheads, lesser scaups, Canadian geese, trumpeter swans, mallards, pine siskins, house finches, tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, golden crowned kinglets, cardinals, bluejays, mourning doves, red breasted nuthatches, white breasted nuthatches, field sparrows, downy woodpeckers, and one lowly Mandarin duck (a permanent resident of the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary who is not native to Michigan or even the United States!)
All in all, a lovely day for a walk.