Riding Out the Storm

March 15, 2020

Osprey on the wing

In the ten days since I last posted, so much has happened here in the states (and all over the world) in terms of the Coronavirus. We are officially in a ‘state of emergency’. Schools, libraries, restaurants and churches have closed all across the country for an indefinite period of time. Broadway has closed, Disney World has closed, New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been cancelled and the Boston Marathon has been postponed!  And this is only the beginning!

Osprey with his ‘catch of the day’

For many people, this emergency presents a severe economic hardship, for others, it is just an inconvenience, and for some, it will be a death sentence.  

Common Moorhen

In order to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, to ‘flatten the curve’ as they say, we are being asked to limit our contacts with other people, to practice ‘social distancing’ as much as possible. For Mel and I, the changes will be minimal. We’re retired. We won’t have lost wages. We won’t have young ones at home who need childcare, and we won’t have elderly parents in our care. In fact, at ages 66 and 73, we ARE the elderly!!  

Bald Eagle

For our part, then, we’ve stopped going to the coffee shop, stopped going to restaurants and stopped going to any stores other than an occasional visit to the grocery store. What we haven’t stopped doing is going out for walks.  

Brown Pelican diving for dinner!

I am beyond thankful that we, as a nation, haven’t yet been  restricted from leaving our homes like other countries have had to do. If this becomes necessary, we would readily comply, but home confinement would, no doubt, stress the limits of my ability to stay sane– or even pleasant! 

Wood Stork

My picture walks are an antidote to all the upheaval. They keep me interested, excited and connected to the world around me—they keep me healthy. So, I am hoping I won’t have to give up my walks during this crisis, and that they will continue to do what they have always done, which is to save my sanity during these very troubled times.  

All done!

For those of you who are housebound or otherwise unable to spend time with Mother Nature, I hope the pictures here provide joy or, in some way, pique your interest in the wonders of the natural world, and that they will help you ride out this storm!

A Cold and Windy November Walk

November 8, 2018

Yesterday I ventured out to the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan, Michigan to take a picture walk, but it was so cold and so windy (wind chill of 30 degrees) that a lot of the pictures I took didn’t turn out well. The wind was periodically strong enough that just holding my camera, with its very long lens, was a bit of a challenge. And, at times, I couldn’t hold it steady enough because I was just too darned cold! Of the nearly 600 pictures I took, more than half of them didn’t make the cut. (Even on a good day, though, I tend to take an excessive number of pictures–mostly because I’m still learning and I think maybe picture number two will be better than picture number one. It only becomes a problem, though, when picture 100 might be better than picture 99!!)

pectoral sandpipers 11-7-2018 1-55-42 PM
“Pectoral Sandpipers are a medium-sized, chunky shorebird that is found most commonly on mudflats with short grass or weedy vegetation and seems more at home in the grass than in the water.”

In spite of the cold and windy weather, I was pleasantly surprised, and happy to see so many different birds braving the weather along with me– the Killdeer, the Lesser Yellowlegs, the Pectoral Sandpipers, the Buffleheads and the Mallards were still out on the mud flats and the ponds like they were a few days ago, AND there was a pair of Gadwalls hidden among the other birds! They were well camouflaged!!

lesser yellow legs 11-7-2018 2-17-47 PM
The Lesser Yellowlegs were also in great abundance, but they tended to hang out more in the shallow waters rather than in the mudflats like the killdeer.

killdeer 11-2-2018 8-38-22 AM (2)
“Killdeer get their name from the shrill, wailing kill-deer call they give so often. Eighteenth-century naturalists also noticed how noisy Killdeer are, giving them names such as the Chattering Plover and the Noisy Plover.” LISTEN HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4u6ax5P-o8

lesser yellow legs 11-7-2018 2-35-37 PM
“The Lesser Yellowlegs is a slender, long-legged shorebird that readily shows off the brightly colored legs that give it its name. It is an active feeder, often running through the shallow water to chase its prey.”

GADWALL

gadwall 11-7-2018 3-05-09 PM
Here are the Gadwalls. Mrs. Gadwall is in the picture above and Mr. Gadwall is underneath. They were swimming on the far side of the pond in among the mallards and were hard to spot. “They associate with many other duck species, and on a quick scan you may miss the males because of their subdued brown appearance—keep an eye out for their black rear ends, white wing-patch (formed by the inner secondary feathers), and intricately patterned, not streaked or spotted, plumage.”

American Tree Sparrow 11-7-2018 2-58-40 PM
I managed to capture this one little tree sparrow all puffed up against the wind and cold–just like me!!

Late in the day, on my way home from the fish hatchery,  I decided to keep driving south another 20 minutes to the town of  Schoolcraft, where a fellow birder had said I might find flocks of Sandhill Cranes out in the farm fields—and I did!  Thank you Andrea Zinkus!

sandhill cranes 11-7-2018 4-22-32 PM
“Sandhill Cranes are known for their dancing skills. Courting cranes stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow, and leap into the air in a graceful and energetic dance.”

sandhill cranes 11-7-2018 3-58-39 PM

sandhill cranes 11-7-2018 4-23-53 PM
Sandhill Cranes make a very distinctive sound. If you’ve never heard it before, take a LISTEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeIMak-ohVk

sandhill cranes 11-7-2018 4-22-033

sandhill cranes 11-7-2018 4-22-17 PM
More displays of the Sandhill Crane’s many dance moves!!

sandhill crane with one leg 11-7-2018 4-11-48 PM
A parting shot. Take a close look at this Sandhill Crane. He only has one leg!!