Saturday, June 20, 2009

After having lived in Pinckney for nearly three years, I have finally planted a flower garden. I think it took me that long to finally settle in, to feel a part of this place, and to have some idea of what I wanted to do with it. Being a little bit selfish, I started with my studio.

Hope the deer don't eat these!

There were bird houses all around the property when we moved in, nailed to trees, but one by one they've getting soft and falling off. This one I shored up with a few nail and attached it to the side of my studio, and am happy to report a family of wrens has moved in. Now I get to hear dad ramble the whole time I work! I need to make some new nest boxes for next year.

Mom at the nest box.

Butterflies are starting to emerge in great numbers. These little fellows--I believe they're some kind of skipper--have been all over the sage flowers, but this photo of one on a grass stem turned out better than the others. I've seen swallowtails and fritillaries, but didn't have a camera handy.

Along the back trail I saw some pine bows moving and stopped to see who would emerge. This pretty little lady finally showed herself, mouthful of insects and worms for her babes.
And while we all love the grandeur of a beautiful landscape, sometimes it's the smallest things that can bring the greatest wonder.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back to Appleton

We finally made it back to the Appleton Lakes to do a little fishing and look for the crane family. We put in at Little Appleton and I headed over to the nest site. No sign of the cranes but there was one unhatched egg on the nest. After two weeks it was clear that this was an unfertilized egg and the family had moved on. I was surprised nothing had come by and eaten it. I paddled around the shore line (the lake can't be more than 10 acres) and did not see the family, though with a two week old colt they could be anywhere.

I paddled down the creek connecting the two lakes and saw many damselflies mating, watched one laying her eggs on some vegetation in the fast moving stream. About halfway down someone had put a 2x6 across the creek as a foot bridge, and as the creek is too narrow to turn around, I had to push myself upstream backwards back to the lake. What a workout!

Leopard Frog

After some time on Little Appleton we moved over to Appleton Lake, a bigger and busier lake, and one with some nice shallows that the cranes love. The main group had already come in for the night and were gathered on the south shore, but there were two on the north shore, possibly a mating pair that had lost their colt, and I went to see them.

They did not seem to be bothered by me watching them, but soon after I arrived they seemed to hear something in the brush behind them. They started with their amazing call, then moved off down the shore, did a little jig, and went back to feeding.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Since I moved to Pinckney nearly three years ago I have been wanting to do some volunteer work at the Howell Nature Center, which is only about 10 minutes from my home. Lori and I finally decided to sign up for cage cleaning in their Wild Wonders exhibit, which contains animals that are not releasable to the wild, due either to injury or to being imprinted (made tame, esentially).

Sandhill crane, scratchin' an itch.

We chose three cages: the Sandhill Cranes, of course, since they've become my favorite bird; the Snowy Owl, an amazingly beautiful bird and one not seen much around here; and the rough-legged hawk, a bird that was removed from its nest and raised by a woman illegally.

I enjoy being near the animals and also enjoy hard work, so the cage cleaning suits me. I will be able to get some really good photos too, but for now I just took our little Nikon to get some snapshots.

Rough-legged hawk, male

I also do volunteer work for the DNR doing invasive species removal, and the three of us at Bear Track Studios have sort of adopted a trail in the Brighton Rec Area that we monitor for invasive species. It's a good impetus for getting out, getting some excersise, and feeling like we're doing some good in the process.

Snowy owl, female

If you have any extra time in your day, think about volunteering. Even if it's just an hour or two a week, your help can make a big difference.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On the water at last

With only a few weeks left till the official start of summer (although we all know it starts well before June 21st) we have finally gotten the kayaks out on the lake. Pitifully late if you ask me. I had wanted to be out paddling as soon as the ice melted, but when that happened we were somewhere in Florida. Then we had a show to get ready for, then our gallery open house, then four more shows.... But on Monday we decided to take a day off and headed for Appleton Lake.

Appleton is in the Brighton Rec Area and one of my favorite spots for watching the sandhill crane. It was early in the day, though, and the flock of cranes that overnights at the lake was still out in the surrounding fields and yards feeding. I saw only one lone crane prowling the shoreline in a little cove. I did not see one but I assume there was a mate on a nest nearby.

Blue flag iris
The area is great for watching birds of all kinds, and I saw quite a number without really trying, including belted kingfisher, common yellowthroat, yellow warblers, kingbirds, a female oriole and red-wing blackbirds. There was a pair of great egrets perched in a tree but I did not see a nest anywhere. I was also treated to a fly-0ver by an osprey, not a common bird in this part of Michigan.


There is a very shallow, narrow creek connecting Appleton Lake to Little Appleton Lake, and we pushed and wriggled our way upstream to look for cranes there. We were treated to a nesting pair and what appeared to be a fairly newly hatched colt. The female was still sitting on the nest so we think there will be a second colt soon. But we were worried about rain so we didn't stay long, but will go back in a day or two to see if the family has grown.

Fuzzy shot of fuzzy colt on nest next to mom

Colt can be seen between the two adults, standing on the nest.
Female is rolling her other egg.