• Todd

That Early Spring Thing

Spring is confusing. Some think of Spring as a day on the calendar. Others are into Spring on the first 50 degree day and yet some find the beginning of April to be Spring. For me it's when certain species start heading back north. The last major snow has melted and we are left with ugly brown landscapes and roads covered in salt residue! Maybe one sure sign of Spring is ol' Tom Turkey putting on a display for the ladies!

Fox Sparrows, while not very colorful, are some of the first to return north as the snow melts and the temps warm. I was lucky this year and caught a group of more than 20, easily surpassing the number I've seen in a lifetime!

Some signs of early Spring only come in black and white, as my little friend on the right would prove. It did seem strange to see this skunk running across a wide open field. Plenty of hawks in the area would make the journey a daring one to say the least. Unless, of course, the hawks are smarter than we think!

Watching Goldeneye trying to impress a mate just makes my back ache. They let out this "grunt" when they do this as a call of some sort. Not sure if it's to attract the lady duck or from the pain! After watching this for about an hour, I had to take some Motrin!

A White-Winged Scoter showed up at the mouth of the Clinton River for a few days. Definitely not the usual type of duck one would see here as it is a coastal sea duck. It seems the White-Winged is more likely to show up in the inland waters than other Scoter species, but it still pretty cool to find one so close to home.

White-winged Scoter

Common Redpoll

As luck would have it, the same day I photographed the Scoter, I found my Redpolls! It is said that one of the Redpolls in the flock was a Hoary Redpoll, even more uncommon that the Common Redpoll. I doubt I'll ever learn the difference, I just find it interesting to watch them all.

The triple-treat of the day happened as I was photographing the Redpolls. Without warning, the flock suddenly flew out and scattered. Next thing I know, I have this BEAUTIFUL hawk land on the fence right in front of me! Naturally I had my camera resting on the ground - seriously, this is just my luck. I just knew, as I ever so slowly reached for the camera, that this hawk was going to fly off before I could get a picture. Well, it obviously did not, and I probably snapped off a hundred or so photos before it turned and flew to the west. Better to be lucky than good the saying goes - and I'm fine with that.

Let's call this next part, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Morning light, that's the good. It really can make for some incredible colors. Right place, right time. More Pintail and Wigeon than I have ever seen at one time.

Northern Pintail

American Wigeon

It was a fun day on that pond and while I got there a bit late and was not able to get as close as I would have liked, it did get me to thinking and so...

The Bad -

The following Saturday I spent a good number of hours and, if you believe what your phone says, walked about 6.5 miles through the woods looking for a place to set up and maybe get some better photos of the puddle ducks that were heading back north. I did find a spot that I thought would be perfect! Cleared an area and raced home to get all the things together that I would need. Pop-up blind, knee high boots to battle the water that was everywhere, flashlight, camera, charged up the batteries, monopod, thermos, snacks and handwarmers. I was READY!

Sunday morning I woke to a star-filled sky. I made sure to leave the house with plenty of time to get through the woods and set up before sunrise! This was going perfect...right until I turned onto the gravel road. Out of the darkness a deer raced in front of my car, way too close for comfort. I don't know how fast the human brain can process something but my first thought, in a split-second was "always more than one". I glanced to my right, nothing, then BANG! A loud thud and the sound of broken glass. I won't print what I said, but if you know me, you can probably guess. I quickly stopped and ran around the back of the car expecting to see a broken tail light and maybe a deer. Tail light is fine, no what had happened? Well turns out the deer hit the back passenger door. The glass was the window that shattered all over the back seat. I looked all over for any blood or sign of an injured deer and am happy to report that it must have just kept going. Some hair was all that was left. Needless to say the morning plans were scrapped and I enjoyed a rather cold ride home. As my friend Randy pointed out, 1/2 a second sooner and that glass would have been in the front seat with me. Amazingly, not a dent or scratch on the car. It could have been much worse.

The (lighthearted) Ugly

In Michigan, the sight of a Turkey Vulture soaring overhead is also considered by some to be a sign of Spring. Now any type of Vulture has a job that most would not envy. Soaring around the skies sniffing for a dead carcass to chow on just does not sound like a fun job, nor a tasty one. Still, they are extremely good at what they do! Having a face that only it's mother could love, the Turkey Vulture.

I'd hate to end this on "The Bad" and "The Ugly" so let's go to a happy place. Stopping by an area where I know are at least 3 eagles nests, I was greeted by one perched in a tree about 30 yards from it's nest. Usually when the car stops, the eagle flies, but not this day. It just sat there preening itself without a care in the world. I pulled off the road, rolled down the window and clicked away. When I left, he/she was still doing its thing. Happy and content.

Till next time- GET OUTSIDE!!!!!!!


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