Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Last week I was standing in front of the windows in our walkout basement, trying to get a cell signal so I could make a call. I looked outside and spotted this hummingbird moth feeding on the phlox in the garden, right in front of the window. I ran to my office and grabbed my camera, and ran for the door. Then I remembered that my camera card was still in the computer and hustled back to get it. Happily, the busy little moth was still there.

I have seen these amazing creatures many times in the past, but never when I had my camera in hand, so I was very excited to have a chance to get some photos.  They move very quickly and it was a challenge to follow it around the garden.


While I was shooting Lisa called, (who I had been trying to reach before seeing the moth), and I had to give up the chase. It flew off soon after, but I've been keeping an eye out ever since.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lovely Luna Moth

Way back in late June Lori and I went into town to get our fishing licenses.  It was 10:00 am but we both bought ice cream from the freezer at the hardware store counter, went out front and sat on a bench to eat and enjoy the warm morning. Lori wandered off towards the corner and the trash can, but was soon calling for me. I joined her, and she pointed down at the side of a building. At first I didn't see anything, then this beauty caught my eye:

Luna moth, Actias luna

I took some pics with my iPhone, then we gently scooped him up and brought him home.  We placed him on the old cherry tree out back and I took some more shots.

The male has the remarkable fan-like antenna.

I had never seen a Luna moth in the wild, not that the thriving metropolis of Pinckney, Michigan is all that wild (though there is a park across the street from where we found him). I'd only seen one once in a butterfly house and that really doesn't count.

I took photos from every angle.

I know next to nothing about these creatures so I found the University of Florida's website with lots of good info and photos--you can check it out here. What I knew was that they don't have mouth parts--that's right, the moth does not eat, so it is fairly short lived. They have to breed and lay eggs in a hurry. What I did learn is that they prefer forested areas, only produce one generation a year in the north, and that the larvae feeds on a variety of trees including walnut, hickory and sumac, all of which we have on the property.

The colors! And furry like a newborn baby.

The delicate tail

Once we'd taken our share of photos we moved him to the front of the house and put him on a potted plant, where we hopped he'd be less conspicuous. He was gone within an hour, having either flown off or been gobbled up by a bird. But what a treat to have been able to see one so close.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Trail Cam Imgaes

I gotta tell ya, this trail cam is the bomb! To be able to see what is roaming the far reaches of our property (all five acres of it!) without having to sit in a blind is wonderful.

At a show in early July, a kettle corn vendor named Wolf Runner (no kidding, he's Native American, his wife's name is Bunny) brought us a bag of waste corn after the show. I dumped some of it in front of the trail cam and waited a week before I checked the card.

I was surprised how long it took for anyone other than the rabbits to discover the corn. The first image of something other than a rabbit was three nights after I dumped the corn, but I couldn't have been more excited by what I saw unless it had been a bear--a gray fox!

A gray fox nibbles on kettle corn

I had never seen one before, and while I still technically haven't, just to know we have them around is really neat. He showed up several times over the next week, often in the company of a raccoon, which I thought was really odd.

Much of the piles had been consumed by the time this doe and fawn came by. She is really ripped up, and I can only imagine what might have happened to her. Was she protecting her fawn from coyotes? Was she hit by a car? It's any one's guess, but we have not seen her since these images were made, either on the trail cam or in person. I've seen the fawn on a number of occasions so I imagine she is nearby but still I wonder.

Here's the same fawn the next day, sans doe.

Very late to the popcorn pile was this coyote, clearly skittish. This is the only shot we got of him.

We got a couple of nice images of the fox later on in the week. I have noticed a number of images where the animals are looking/listening off to the north east. Past these trees and shrubs that make up the corner of our property the land opens up to a natural gas pipeline easement that seems to serve as something of a corridor for animals moving through the woods. Could be he's about to have visitors.


Ten days later this little one made an appearance. I think this is a younger fawn than the one we saw before. There were also no images of this fawn with a doe.

Most recently, and one that brings me great joy, is this image of a wild turkey hen and her poults. I saw this family several weeks prior to this, on the hill in front of the small woods at the top corner of our property. The poults took to the air and flew up into the oaks while mom walked up the hill, keeping a close eye on me.

I read Joe Hutto's book Illumination in the Flatwoods over the winter, about his experience raising several clutches of wild turkeys.  Having raised several broods of chickens (we're working on one right now) this was very interesting reading. PBS Nature produced a documentary as well called My Life as  Turkey that you can watch here.  Wonderful stuff, and as with most Nature films, beautifully shot.

Gotta get that camera card back in the trail cam and see what other surprises await us!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Swan Lake

 PIRO/Seney NWR continued and concluded:

As we neared the end of the drive we came across a small traffic jam. We waited patiently to see who was getting so much attention. When we finally pulled up we found a family of Trumpeter swans; mom, dad and six signets.

Such gorgeous, graceful birds, trumpeters are much less aggressive than the non-native Mute swan, who is known for chasing boaters, as well as native swans, off the water.  The trumpeter even look less threatening, being smaller and slighter than the mute.

I imagine tannins in the water color the head and neck feathers of these swans, much like iron in the mud used for preening colors the feathers of Sandhill cranes.

We watched for quite a while as they splashed about, feeding and preening.

Makes me think of the Aflac duck.

The afternoon light was soft and the air was warm. It was a wonderful end to a fun, if short, adventure.


I'm excited to get back on the trail, and to get back to doing some birdwatching. It's been a brutal summer here, as it has been in most places, although the weather has recently broken and we've seen highs in the 70's and 80's in addition to some heavy rain (four inches in one 36 hour stretch last week). I don't tolerate the heat well, so combine the weather with my busy show schedule there's been little opportunity or desire to get out of the house. Autumn is my favorite time of year though and I am looking forward to another trip some time soon!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sharp-tailed Grouse

PIRO/Seney continued 

(Who knew a four day trip to the UP in June would last me until mid-August? I promise I'll be on to something else soon. This is just what happens in the middle of art show season!)

There were other animals and birds at Seney NWR besides loons, although they certainly get a lot of attention. We spotted a pair of beavers swimming poplar branches back to an unseen lodge somewhere near the road.

Just past that we saw this bird strolling down the edge of the road. It was in the shade so the light was poor and the vibration from the van engine didn't help. She was far enough away (this image is cropped) that we weren't sure what it was.

We noticed she had thick looking legs. Someone said a rail, perhaps a Sora. It didn't quite fit, though. Even when she lost her nerve and scooted down the road with her tail lifted we didn't figure it out.

Fortunately we came across another farther along the drive in bright sunlight. Looking at her short, chicken-like beak we realized that this was a Sharp-tailed grouse. A first for my list!

 Her legs look thick because they're feathered. Pretty little bird.

She too eventually moved off the road but I was happy to get a few good images first.

Next and last: Ridiculously cute baby swans.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Eyeballed by an Osprey

 PIRO/Seney cont:

We finally left the loons in peace and continued along the drive. But in short order we came upon a snag right on the side of the road with a huge mass of sticks jumbled on top. I peered up at it as we approached and saw a pair of brilliant yellow eyes peering back.

"Stop!" I hollered, and leaned out the passenger-side window. Actually, it's more like I climbed half out the window, twisting and contorting to get the top half of me out the window and the camera up to my head. I'm sure it was quite a scene.

The Osprey was not amused.

"What in the world are you doing?!?"

"Ugh, damn tourists!"

It didn't take her long to get fed up with my voyeurism. After 20 seconds or so she spread her wings while I kept shooting, my arms slowly loosing feeling and my back beginning to kink.

She was facing into a very stiff wind, and without once flapping her wings she lifted up off of the nest.

I struggled to keep her in the frame, hampered by the van door and roof. I'm amazed they're even in focus.

After a few slow wing beats above the nest she turned and was swept past the front of the van, and I could no longer follow.