Now and Then

January 4, 2019

Fox Squirrel

The weather here in Michigan has been almost spring-like the last couple of days– with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the forties. Mel and I wanted to take full advantage of the good weather, so we grabbed our cameras and headed out for two long picture walks both yesterday and today–first to the nearby Gourdneck State Game Area, and then to the Woldumar Nature Center in Lansing—a little over an hour’s drive away.

Both walks were a special treat for us given that it was mid-winter and a time of year when we are often suffering from ‘cabin fever’. The down side of our mid-winter walk, though, was the paucity of birds. It was so beautiful out! Where were they?? With no cooperative birds available, Mel and I were reduced to taking pictures of random squirrels, solitary rocks and each other.

So, I decided to re-visit what I had written about Woldumar Nature Center last September, and to take a look at the pictures I’d taken back then. What a difference! Even though the birds that I photographed back then are still hanging around now, September’s birds were more abundant and more willing to participate in photo shoots! Here’s what things looked like a few months ago…

September 21, 2018

Yesterday, I was driving home from the east side of the state and decided to find a nature preserve along the way home where I could take a picture walk. I settled on the Woldumar Nature Center in Lansing. I had been drawn in by their online description: “Woldumar Nature Center sits on 178 acres of woodland, prairie and wetland terrains, with over a mile of shoreline on the Grand River.”  It was exactly what I was looking for and it did not disappoint.

Less than five minutes into my walk, it seemed like there was an explosion of northern flickers– a rather large, beautiful woodpecker with a distinctive black bib and a spotted belly. You’ll typically see them hopping around on the ground foraging –mostly for ants. According to the Audubon website, Flickers probably eat more ants than any other North American bird!  They also eat beetles, termites, caterpillars, and other insects as well as fruits and berries, especially in fall and winter. Flickers will also eat seeds and nuts at times, but, prefer to dine on ants and other critters more.

Northern Flicker

So, there they were! Flickers everywhere! I don’t often see them, so that was a real treat. There were more flickers scattered along my walk as well as Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers and Red Bellied Woodpeckers. It was Woodpecker heaven! The only other woodpecker I wished I would have seen was the very large Pileated Woodpecker. He’s quite a sight to see—and hear!

Another beautiful bird I saw along my walk was the starling. Some people consider them to be beneficial, others consider them to be a nuisance:

Common Starling

“Large flocks typical of this species can be beneficial to agriculture by controlling invertebrate pests; however, starlings can also be pests themselves when they feed on fruit and sprouting crops. Common starlings may also be a nuisance through the noise and mess caused by their large urban roosts.”

Also, according to the data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the European Starlings are probably responsible for the decline in the numbers of the Northern Flickers because they are in competition with them for nest cavities. All very interesting, I thought.

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