• Todd

A Little Help From My Friends

A question I get asked frequently is "How do you know where to find all these birds/animals?" As a little kid I was always outside. Catching worms to fish with, crayfish out behind the old church (before they turned it into a subdivision) and chasing my sisters with snakes we would find in the yard. As I got a little older, I got to go hunting "up north" with my family. Looking back, this was probably the key to the whole outdoor adventure. Spending hours in the woods, watching deer come and go, wondering what that grouse was eating under those pine trees, hearing the pheasants cackle out in the field. Watch, listen, learn. Noticing the birds up there that we didn't see at home - why was that? The wheels were turning.

Built by my Uncle, his family and friends, the house is still owned by family and continues to make memories for those that still love to hunt and be outdoors.

Where the camera came into play is a little foggy. To this day, I can't believe my father let me use his Canon AE1. Was this really the same dad that yelled at me for leaving his tools out in the rain or breaking that screwdriver because I used it as a pry bar? But he trusts me with his camera, wow! For a number of years, I would race out to Harsen's Island and try to get pictures of the deer during the non-hunting months. The camera gave me a 12 month hunting season! My luck was about the same as when I was really hunting, but the enjoyment I got from being out there made it all worth while. Both photography and I have progressed far from that old Canon AE1, but I never got rid of the old equipment.

Fast forward from those humble beginnings to the world of the internet and constant, instant communication. Before I started writing this I cleaned up my mailbox. Deleted 34 emails. Almost every single one contained info on birds or a quick note about a spot for some other critter. Those are just from the time I've been home from work today. If I could find the energy after work to make some of those drives, I'm sure I could be out 6 of the 7 days of the week. Things are happening and word is spreading and even if it's been seen for 3 straight days, the day you have off is the day nobody sees it. Poof, gone. It really happens that fast.

Eastern Whip-Poor-Will

An Eastern Whip-Poor-Will roosted in the same spot for about a week, then just like that, not seen again. Glad it was close enough that I could get there after work. Nocturnal bird, sleeps most of the day.

Birders are a huge resource in all this. I am very fortunate to be a part of their community. I'm included in text and emails. They spend 100's if not thousands of hours afield. One of the first true birders I ever met jokingly told me, "You'll always know a birder in the field. They will have binoculars, a flat hat and look like they just walked out of the LL Bean catalog." Over the years I have found this to be mostly true and still laugh at times when I notice that description. They are, however, the most outstanding source of information. The knowledge under those caps is irreplacable. Without them, I'd probably be lost in the woods someplace. Can't thank them enough.

Mississippi Kite

This Mississippi Kite was located in Washtenaw County by a birder that reported it to the group. Poor lighting made for some tough photography.

The Mississippi Kite likes to eat large insects such as cicadas. The place it was found just happened to be loaded with cicadas. Draw a line from Kansas east to North Carolina and you'd have the basic range for this Kite. So it's big news when one shows up in Michigan. Racing into the woods to photograph it with a storm kicking it's heels up behind us made for an exciting time. We got a little wet, but beat out the heavier rain.

My cellphone picture attempt of a Cicada

Throughout the years I have also had the pleasure to meet some totally amazing photographers. They have all these great places to find deer, owls, eagles and just about anything else you ask them about. In addition, they help to make me a better photographer. I get to learn the different techniques they use and apply them for what works best for me. Study, watch, learn, apply. Three photographers in particular really push me. The work they do is amazing and I have no problem admitting to being jealous. Sometimes it's great to be alone and in nature, other times it's the company you are with that makes the trip worthwhile.

A fellow photographer had found this little fawn and waited nearby for 40 minutes while I made the drive out. I was in such a rush to get here, I forgot my tripod in the trunk of the car. Improvising as best as I could, I waited the hour and a half for it to stand up.

It was worth the wait. It was a little shaky, but managed to get up, turn and lay back down.

Could they get any more adorable? Think just how big some of them will get eating all your hostas and daylilies!!

In some cases I have been lucky enough to get to go out on some "secret" missions. Places that few people know of. It's a privledge to get to go to these places and get to photograph wildlife with these people. That they trust me to not tell anyone where these places are is probably the best feeling of all. On a recent one of these trips, I was able to photograph a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. I've only seen one before and the picture I got from it was nothing compared to what this trip provided.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Now truth be told, we were hoping for a Black-Billed Cuckoo as I have never even seen one before. Heard, but not seen. It was still an incredible morning of shooting.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak