Monday, December 3, 2012

Pine Grosbeaks!

A few weekends ago I made a quick, two day trip up north to run some errands. A shop where we had our work was going out of business, I had a commission to drop off as well as some work for another gallery, and I wanted to visit a couple of indie bookstores to see if they'd be interested in carrying Lori's Holly Wild book series.

I pretty much look for any excuse to get me up north so that I can get a chance to see some new birds.  This turned out to be a great trip.

I arrived in Interlochen with about 30 minutes to kill, so I parked near the beach at Duck Lake and grabbed my binoculars to see who might be out on the water. A large flock of Canada geese were hanging out near the playground, and while I gave them a wide berth they still grumbled and moved off into the water. I watched them for a minute then looked around the lake. I saw a pair of hooded mergansers to my right, then spied another pair of birds almost directly in front of me, but at some distance.

I was pretty sure these were new birds for me. I took several minutes trying to ID them on iBird. I went through all the waterfowl families before I hit on grebes. Sure enough, this was one for the life list--red-necked grebes!

This image is not cropped to show how oh so far away they were (with a 420mm lens!).

I hadn't brought my camera down, and I was starting to run out of time before my appointment, but I decided I wanted to try to get some photos. I ran back to the car and tore through my gear, got lenses and extenders on the camera and the camera on the tripod without dropping anything, and ran back down to the water. I tripped and nearly fell over a downed branch and had to tell myself to relax and slow down.

By the time I got to the water they were further away so the images aren't great, but at least I can tell what they are! All of the range maps I've seen for this bird show it in the Great Lakes during migration but not on inland lakes, so this was pretty exciting.

Red-necked grebes on Duck Lake, Interlochen.

The following day I took a few hours and drove up to Leelanau State Park, at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. This spit of land forms the northern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes to the west and creates the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay to the east. It's gorgeous country and lots of grapes are grown here, along with cherries and apples. I had always wanted to go up to the park so I took this opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing and hit some bookstores along the way.

On the road not far from the park I saw some blobs on the asphalt. At first I thought they were parts of some dead thing, then realized they were moving, so I slowed down. As I approached they took to the air, and I watched as they flew up into some trees near the road. I didn't know what they were so I pulled over and got my binoculars out. I was SO excited when I realized they were pine grosbeaks, another new bird for me. Two in 24 hours!

Pine grosbeaks, un-cropped.  I was afraid to get too close and spook them.

The camera had trouble focusing on them in the branches, and with the dim light the images aren't sharp, but I was trilled to get to watch them picking bits out of the white spruce.

Male pine grosbeak.

Female pine grosbeak. Her color is subtle but she's no less striking.

I watched and photographed them for about 10 minutes before they flew off into the deeper woods.

Pine grosbeak pair. Such a pretty couple!

I did finally make it to Leelanau State Park, but it was a rather bittersweet visit. That's for next time.


  1. Oh wow! Great photos! I love that color!!

    ...good captures of the Red-necked Grebes as well. I've done the trip-and-nearly-fall thing chasing after a bird too! Funny how that adrenalin takes over. Congrats on the life bird!

    1. Hi Kelly! I was just admiring your crossbill photos. I need to come down and do a little birding in your neck of the woods!

  2. Oh, but I smiled when I saw you on the screen, Marie. Was afraid I'd lost you. Been hectic on this end -- now I understand why you'd say you needed time. Gosh, but it's a juggling act, being creative and keeping up. Can't be creative on demand. Anyway, loved your newsletter. You're really moving along, girl! Proud of you!!!

    I'm excited about Rings perhaps cracking a certain ceiling. Out of the hundreds of thousands (!) of e-books, it's at 24,486 this a.m. and a WOW launch. Rings is a little voice about stuff that shouldn't be. If Rings cracks the ceiling, maybe somebody somewhere will notice that, hmmm, there can be a dialogue about certain things. As you can see, my idealism is alive and well. :)))))

    And what great photos. I've dropped by before to sip my coffee and zone out and into nature. You're sooooo talented, Marie!