I do hope that 2019 will be your best year ever (and mine too). Getting out into the great outdoors proved to be a challenge in 2018. Club soccer and college visits had us running all over the Midwest. It seemed that we were on the road every weekend - and I admit to loving it! I'm usually pretty quiet on long rides and my teenage passenger took full advantage as you can see! She's consistent if nothing else!
When time permitted and weather cooperated, it was camera time. I'm not sure if it was the lack of free time or just something in the air, but it seemed I focused more on getting pictures of birds that I haven't been able to capture in the past. Sure, I got some that I have had in the past and of course I found the deer to be more cooperative than ever!
High School soccer and major family illness kept me home most of the early Spring. My favorite time of year when the ducks migrate back north, full of color for the breeding season and I was only out twice. Fortunately I was able to get a decent shot of a Ring-necked. A shy bird that in the past had given me the slip!
I don't remember if it was the same day or not but somehow I managed to catch these two Woodcock on the other side of the canal as I drove down a rural road. The duck and Woodcock were in the same area, separated by yards, not miles. I pulled over, ran the window down and began snapping pictures. There was a third, but it wanted nothing to do with a group photo. With a little luck, things will improve this March!
The end of April/beginning of May is when things seem to really get going. The major migration starts. All those crazy songbirds are heading back north to breed and spend the summer. A change in weather or wind can mean a ton of birds one day and next to nothing the next. Timing is everything. I had one chance to get out and while it wasn't the best day, it was far from the worst. After many years of trying, I got a Hooded Warbler. I've known the spot for a while but it's a spot known more so for mosquito's and ticks. This time I went a little earlier in the year, the colder weather was still around and I found one lone Hooded! Bonus: No ticks, no mosquito's!!!! Win/Win/Win
Another Warbler nemesis fell in 2018. Not the best of photographs but I finally got a decent shot of a Prothonotary Warbler. These little guys would be so much easier to photograph if they would just sit still!
The day finished up with a few other warblers. Not bad for a quick road trip! Left to right is Bay-breasted, Cape May and Blue-winged Warbler.
My first big surprise of 2018 was early May in an area where I least expected it. I had spent the sun-filled morning walking some ponds looking for ducks. Ducks were few and far between and I was headed back to my car, less than 50 yards from my car, when suddenly this guy flew up into a dead tree right in front of me!
April showers bring May flowers and now and then you just have to stop and admire.
They sometimes bring unwanted guests also.
As the school year ended, we added another milestone. Our son traded in his red and white Lake Shore High School colors for Maize and Blue! Mom and Dad couldn't be any happier!
Summer was filled with some good days
And some stormy nights that sent me running for cover (but not until I got the picture!).
It included this guy hanging out near the lake!
A special treat was a family of Osprey nesting in a treetop on the lake! Lighting was rough, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get.
This Northern Mockingbird was a first for me this summer. This dirty bird led me on a chase that included him taking me right through an area infested with Chiggers. A day later my ankles looked like they had chicken pox! The itching was terrible. I discovered that Icy Hot will help with the itching! It's the menthol. It saved me!
There is something special about the Fall season. That first time you wake in the morning, step outside and get a deep breath of that new cool, fresh air that is coming in from the great North. It's refreshing - and a little scary at the same time. Scary in that we know what's going to follow the Fall! The heat and humidity disappear and suddenly blue jeans and sweatshirts feel so good. It's also a great time to be out with a camera.
For the past few years this owl has been a constant companion. It's usually in one of two trees and I always worry when it's not "where it's supposed to be". It'll disappear for a time, then back on it's perch. It seems content in this area and I'm glad for that.
Lake St. Clair hosted some Atlantic coast visitors for a couple weeks when a small flock of Brant geese dropped in. I didn't think I was going to be able to get out to photograph them, but my son and I made a quick run one day and it worked out. I wish I had the picture of when they flew up off the water and almost landed in my son's lap! He was back-pedaling pretty quick to get out of the way. Very entertaining!
Watching a flock of turkey drink from a pond was pretty cool. They even stepped into the water, I'd never seen that. To watch them fly over the pond was even better! Capturing this "Gray Ghost" in flight is probably something I'll never see again.
Fall and the Whitetail rut go together like peanut butter and jelly (or chocolate!). Watching bucks battle it out just makes my day. I've gotten to see this many times this year. Only once did I see it get a little nuts when I think antlers locked and the bigger of the two bucks literally tossed the smaller buck away! The little guy ran off, having learned it's lesson.
One thing I've yet to see is any other buck challenge this big guy. He walks out and the others step away. It's amazing the respect he gets, especially during the rut. The leaves stuck on the antlers were from a day he freshened up a scrap and then ran his antlers through the ground. When he lifted his head, the leaves were there! He turned my way and I was more than happy to click the shutter! If he survives another year, I hope to see him in the Fall of 2019!
By far, the most interesting thing that happened while out and about was the discovery of a Varied Thrush. It is a bird that stays on the west coast from Alaska to Northern California. It winters from Pacific Coastal Canada all the way to San Diego! It's range is usually east to Idaho but in winter they are sometimes seen across the northern United States. I've returned numerous times to this location but have not been able to relocate the bird.
Being fleet afoot (yeah, I'm joking) pays off when you are playing tag with a train! It was around Christmas time and my friend Willie and I gave chase of the North Pole Express! Not getting the shot we were hoping for will certainly bring us back in 2019. You can read all about these Owosso train rides here: https://michigansteamtrain.com/npe
There is one owl that always seems to elude me - the Short-eared Owl. I've seen them a few times, right at dark when the light is gone and so is any chance of getting a good photo. I've tried many times and am usually rewarded with a blurry image of something that, if you try real hard, could be an owl! Having time off between Christmas and New Years had me thinking about these guys as reports were almost daily of sightings. I picked a great day, ugly gray skies with a smattering of rain/ice mix. Perfect vacation weather, right? Made the 2+ hour ride north with a little plan to check some spots for Snowy owls. Luck was on my side as I found 6 Snowy owls! The bonus, the heavy clouds had the Short-eared flying early! Three were buzzing a field and headed west down a road. I drove down the road and was able to capture one sitting on the side of the road. Once I lost track of them I turned around and went back to where I had been parked. What greeted me was a total surprise!
Now it's rural up here and no traffic to really speak of so I didn't think twice about stopping, throwing open my car door and praying as I snapped off about 7-8 pictures. For those that know cameras, this was shot at 3200 ISO, so it was much darker outside than you may think. A truck cruised by on the other side of the road and scared off the owl, but I didn't care. I finally had my picture. 2019 goal - to get one of them flying!
Last day, New Years Eve 2018! Sleeping in is not an option when you have time off, so I was out looking for Eagles in a place that is usually reliable. Well the Eagles were out- WAY OUT. Too far for any good pictures and even the fly-bys were not particularly good for detail. I did however, run into a gentleman named Bruce that told me of a little bird on Grosse Ile that was hanging around much later than usual. About an hour later I met up
with Bruce on the island and we were able to relocate and photograph this little guy. He was not camera shy at all. As of 1/6/19, the bird was still being seen. Not sure if or when he will leave to join his relatives in Mexico and Cuba, but I'm sure once he's ready, he will be on his way!
That's a quick summary of 2018. I hope to do this about once a month or so, keep it short, interesting and maybe even a little funny. It'll be about the outdoors and not so much about family, but sometimes I may throw a little curve in there. Thanks for taking a look and if you know someone that might be interested, please pass it on!
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