Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ducks Up North

Lisa and I have made a quick trip up north to drop some work off at Michigan's Gifts and Treasures, a small shop in Interlochen, and stopped to spend the night with some friends in Traverse City. Vern's place is on the West Bay of Grand Traverse Bay and has a great view of the water. The little boat house on the shore is like a small cottage with a bathroom and kitchenette, and a deck around it. I am in love!

The west shore is protected from the prevailing winds, and is a bit swampy.

The bay is open, even in the dead of winter, and there were many ducks, swans and geese hanging about.

Common goldeneye young and old were scattered across the bay.

This Mallard drake surfed this small wave into shore.

Lisa and Karin were ready to head back to the house before I was, but I knew that there was a pot of shrimp Étouffé on the stove, so I followed them back.

I think I've found a good spot to birdwatch!

P.S. I want to thank Vern for his hospitality--we are looking forward to many more visits in the future!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Louis and the Tree Sparrow, pt. 2

Continued from previous post....

Louis tried everything he could think of to get at that little sparrow.

He begged.

He pleaded.

Nothing worked.

He was literally head over heals for the little bird....

I haven't seen the little fellow in a couple of days now. He seemed to be getting around better, and I watched as he flew off with the other birds a few days ago. Thanks to the warmer weather the feeders have been very quiet--I imagine the birds are out looking for emerging insects, their preferred source of protein. It will stay pretty quiet until the migrants return and hit the feeders hard, replenishing after their long journey.

I wonder if this little sparrow will return, and if I'll recognize him if he does. It's funny, the bond that can form between a person and an animal when that animal seemingly lacks fear and allows for fairly close interaction. I wish him well.

Louis just wishes he was dinner....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Louis and the Tree Sparrow

I first noticed the tree sparrow two weeks ago. I had gone out on the balcony to fill the feeders and there he was, sitting on the railing, puffed up against the cold. As I approached, he didn't fly away, so studied him for a moment. I looked closely, but didn't see anything obviously wrong.

Over the following weeks it has become clear that he has adopted the balcony as his home. We put our Christmas tree there last month for shelter for the birds, and there are numerous feeders and fresh water, so it is the perfect place for an ailing bird to be.

He moves around just fine, although his flight seems labored, fluttery, and I noticed he has a gap in his feathers under his beak. It could be that he was attacked by something. Notice the dark spot under his eye--that's where he's missing feathers.

As you can imagine, this tiny fluff ball is driving our cat, Louis, out of his mind. Recently, the sparrow has taken to sitting quite close to the door wall (it's been bitterly cold here) and Loius is beside himself. A few days ago the bird was resting on the track for the doors, and Louis was determined to find a way to get at him.

The sparrow was nonplussed, and seemed to study Louis.

Perhaps if I try upside down....


To be continued....

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Belle Isle Birding

I am back from my birding expedition to the frozen tundra that is Belle Isle! We went out with a great bunch of folks, 14 to start with, who were willing to brave the cold temps and the biting wind for a chance to see an unfamiliar bird.

Belle Isle is in the middle of the Detroit River, which separates Windsor, Ontario from Michigan. The entire region, from the south shores of Lake Erie on up along Lake St. Claire and Lake Huron, is a huge flyway for migrating birds. Additionally, the area around Belle Isle is generally the last of the open water in the area, so it gets flooded with gulls and waterfowl. Anyone without enough sense to fly south for the winter seems to end up here.

From the island one gets a great view of Detroit, partly because it's so far away you can't see the blight. (My heart breaks every time I drive through this city.) But it is an attractive skyline, with the Renaissance Center and the Ambassador Bridge.

The river was choked with ice, much of it looking like this:

But there was open water to be found, and most of it was packed with birds. Here some Goldeneye are joining the group. Note the two Common mergansers smack in the middle.

There were not that many Canada geese, which can be a real nuisance around here. This small flock was headed for the open water under the bridge to the island.

With everyone looking out to the river for waterfowl, this little American tree sparrow was nearly overlooked.

It was a good group, led by Steve Santner and Fred Charbonneau of the Detroit Audubon Society. They were knowledgeable and more than happy to point out what they were seeing out on the water. Here Andrew, a British fellow in town for business who hitched a ride in our van, checks out some gulls.

Surprisingly, the hit of the day was a gull. This one, a Greater black-backed gull, was hanging with some geese on the Detroit side of the river.

On the Canadian side Steve spotted these two, which he came to identify based on size and leg color as two different species--a Lesser black-backed gull in front, and a Greater behind. Detroit is nearly at the far western edge of the range of both these birds, and the group was a-twitter about them. Unfortunately they were quite a ways off, so the images are pretty poor (note, however, the Canvasbacks in the background).

Eventually the larger bird took wing.

After the shoreline drive we stopped and took a short hike into the woods in hopes of seeing a saw-whet owl that has been seen hanging around, but no one was home.

I look forward to heading back out to this area in the spring, perhaps making a trip to Metro Beach MetroPark to catch the migration.

Time off

I am taking a break today and heading out to Belle Isle this morning. The Detroit Audubon Society is getting a group together to go see waterfowl in the Detroit River. They say it's a "hot spot" of bird activity this time of year, and you know how poor I am at identifying them, so this will hopefully good practice. Maybe I'll get a few decent shots to share, too.

I am in the middle of "production hell", that time of year when I spend a week or more building up stock. I've printed and assembled over 250 note cards and over 120 prints, which I still have to mat--that will take me several days. Being in the basement this time of year isn't so bad, however, but it will be nice to take a break.

So hopefully I'll have some new stuff to post, and I promise to finish up the Florida posts before my next trip down south in March!