Birds Galore!

Northwoods Journal

Good Friday, April 18, 2014

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and by his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5 RSV

Yesterday’s wish came true and the birds showed up in droves today.  I have counted 16 species so far:  blue jay, dark-eyed junco, common flicker, brown-headed cowbird, mourning dove, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, house finch, chickadee, chipping sparrow, red-winged black bird, American robin, American goldfinch, brown creeper and yellow-bellied sapsucker.

White-breasted nuthatch.

White-breasted nuthatch.

Photo opportunities were slim as the morning was very dark and gloomy and everything outside seems to be the same colors – brown and gray!  Plus it was cold and Mark was running in and out cooking breakfast so I had very little chance to focus on anything before it flew off.  It’s amazing how many shots I get of blurry wings as a bird flies out of frame!

Something was singing up in the very tops of the trees – I thought it was a rose-breasted grosbeak – but we weren’t sure so I went to fetch the binoculars.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am a “place for everything and everything in its place” type of person, meaning if I want something, I know right where it is.  Well, when I went to fetch the binoculars, they were not in the spot where they belong.  We searched high and low and never did find them.  Even the carry case is missing, so we must have lent them out to someone.  That bird would make 17 for the day (in our yard) if I could have identified it.

Mark happily fired up the Coleman stove for the first time in 2014 and fried us up some bacon and eggs for breakfast.  I’m not much of an egg eater – I like my eggs in cake, I like to say – and Mark made my yoke too hard so the dogs got most of it.  That was fine by me because I was saving room for fresh donuts from The Baklava Shop in town.

After breakfast I washed my hair and dressed.  The beagles were very put out when we put on our boots but did not get their leashes to take them for a hike!  We headed into town – first to The Baklava Shop, where they did not have fresh donuts so we settled for fresh made cinnamon rolls, two kinds of baklava – pecan and almond – and shortbread.  Their shortbread is to die for!  From there we went up the street a short way to the hardware store to get the piece of plumbing pipe Mark needs for the bathroom and also to get the new ORV sticker for the FJ.  Mark got a tad upset when we found out the state has restructured all the licensing and an ORV sticker is no longer good for the trails, now we need an ORV sticker AND an ORV trail sticker, at an extra cost of course.  He almost didn’t buy them but I told him to just go ahead and get it since they were saying the DNR is really cracking down and ticketing people out on the trails without the sticker.  And to think we drove the trails around here for 12 years and never even bothered with an ORV sticker at all until last year!  Last year’s ORV sticker cost $16, this year it was $26 plus an extra $10 for the trail sticker.  The cost of fishing licenses went up, as well.

Personally, I have no issue with paying the price of the sticker and Mark didn’t either, really.  His problem is that the ORV sticker itself is basically useless to us now.  From the explanation given to us, the ORV sticker is more for ATV’s, allowing them to ride on the side of main roads.  It has nothing to do with the trails, but you can’t buy the ORV trail sticker by itself, you have to buy both stickers.  It all seemed really stupid and redundant to us.  Why not just make one sticker for the whole blamed thing?

With ORV stickers in hand, we concluded our business at the hardware and drove to the edge of town to the Family Dollar to buy a couple things we needed then back into town to stop at Northwoods Gallery to see our friend Mr. Zollars and catch up on town happenings.  We didn’t linger long as he had paying customers arrive.

One of my goals for this weekend was to see some different species of waterfowl so we walked from the gallery down into the township park to the Thunder Bay River where we could see some things swimming about.  From the shore we couldn’t really tell what they were – our first thought was loons but they were not behaving as loons do.  There was quite a large flock of them so I just pointed the camera and hoped for the best.  I was very excited when we got back and I loaded the photos onto my laptop to see they were common mergansers!

Common mergansers

Common mergansers

Common mergansers

Common mergansers

I realize that compared to other photographers’ blogs that I follow these shots are not very good but considering the limitations of my small camera plus the fact that the birds were really quite far away and swimming up-stream away from us, the wind, and the lack of color contrast, I was actually very pleased with the results I got.  I was expecting nothing but a blurry mess, to be perfectly honest.  The fact that we could actually identify the birds from the photos had me feeling quite cheerful.  (Though I do still long for a better camera.)  This was only a small portion of the huge flock that was on the river.

(Please click on any photo to see a larger view.)

We enjoyed every finger-licking bite of our cinnamon rolls while looking at the merganser photos.  Adequately revived, we bundled up and got the beagles’ leashes so we could take them on their hike.  Hoping to find more water birds, we headed to Lake DeCheau.  Sure enough, as soon as we got out of the FJ, we could see ducks swimming near the far shore.  They looked similar to the mergansers but we couldn’t tell for sure so once again I zoomed in as far as I could and hoped for the best.  Being a techno-dunce and really not well versed in all my camera can do, I normally shoot in auto mode.  With today’s low light I switched to program mode and messed with the iso some – I am learning something from those photographers’ blogs I follow!  Now if I only understood what I actually did and why.  LOL  All I know is that it did make a big difference in the photos I was able to take.  It wasn’t until I uploaded the photos to my computer that I was able to identify the subjects as ring-necked ducks – so two new species for me today!

Ring-necked ducks

Ring-necked ducks

DeCheau Lake was still covered in quite a lot of ice and the wind was blowing bitter cold.  I could have used a scarf!  We walked around the lake and the trails that weave through the woods there.  The dogs would have liked a longer hike, but we were chilled so headed home.

DeCheau Lake still covered in ice.

DeCheau Lake still covered in ice.

Mark took Blue Jay Trail back and we saw these two deer in a gas field.  They were kind enough to pose for photos, despite the dogs carrying on!  (I’m getting quite good at hanging out the window shooting pictures!)

White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer

Blue Jay Trail was a snowy, muddy, messy quagmire requiring skillful driving but Mark and the FJ breezed right through – he said the tires never even spun once.  We saw 6 more deer in another gas field along Stevens Spring but they did not stick around for a photo op.

The temperature had dropped from this morning so Mark decided it was time to fire up the wood burner as the two radiant heaters weren’t able to keep up with the cold.  Before coming up he had tried unsuccessfully to find someone to sharpen his chain saw blades – someone besides the mower center that charges $15 a pop.  In his search he found they sell a tool for sharpening them yourself, so he bought one and tried his hand at it.  He wasn’t at all convinced he had done a good enough job, he says it will take some practice, but he was able to cut up the smaller limbs we had gathered last fall.  There is a maple down on Stevens Spring, close to the road, so he wants to go see how the newly sharpened blade works on something bigger around.

Mid-afternoon the sun came out so Mark went outside to build a stand for his Coleman stove.  I tried sitting out in the sun but the wind was still too cold for my taste so I came back inside, content to sit in front of the kitchen window watching the birds.  Whenever Mark came back inside he would complain that now it was too hot in here but I felt like I had finally just thawed out!  When he finished with his labors I went out and sat with him, messing more with my camera settings – this time in manual mode.  I really have no idea what does what, I would just press buttons and take a picture of the birds to see what difference it made.  🙂

Can you see the female dark-eyed junco in the leaves?

Can you see the female dark-eyed junco in the leaves?

We decided to take the dogs for another hike before dinner so headed up the road toward Sportsmen Dam, figuring to hike into the back side of the lake.  There were four deer at the power lines.  We knew it didn’t bode well when we saw a yellow caution sign with a silhouette of a semi-truck on it.  My heart sank when we got to the trail leading to the dam.  They have clear-cut the whole area – all the way down to the dam and the lakeshore. I didn’t even recognize where we were!  They did it recently because the air was still sweet with the scent of fresh-cut wood.  This was one of our favorite hiking areas.  I try to understand the benefit of this practice, but the truth is by time this area grows back to its former glory I will most likely be way past hiking age.

A photo can't really capture the magnitude of the clear-cutting.

A photo can’t really capture the magnitude of the clear-cutting.

Despite the ache in my heart, we walked down to the dam where we saw a belted kingfisher and then around the lake, hoping to see more waterfowl.  We did spot a small flock of something but they were right where the sun hit the water so all I could see were a bunch of black blobs.  I tried to get a photo but they took flight so that was the end of that.  The wind was still blowing cold so we only walked half-way around before turning and heading back.  Mark says he is not in hiking shape yet. 🙂  We saw six more deer as we drove around the lake.  I’ve lost track of how many that makes for the day.

Dinner was a wonderful mixture of new red potatoes, green beans, onion, and turkey smoked sausage cooked together in a big pot.  We ate at the kitchen table, watching the antics of the birds and the black squirrels through the window.  Shortbread for dessert.  You can bet I savored every delicious, buttery bite!  I think we finally managed to wear the beagles out, they are all dozing happily now!

Sleepy Daisy.

Sleepy Daisy.

I think we wore old Milo out!

I think we wore old Milo out!

Ruby was too busy watching for black squirrels to be tired.

Ruby was too busy watching for black squirrels to be tired.

I figured we had enough adventure for one day, but Mark wanted to go out for a drive at dusk to see if we could find any wildlife.  I think he plans to get his money’s worth out of those ORV stickers.  We saw 40 deer – give or take a few.  I kind of lost count after 25 and it seemed like we were seeing 3, 4 and 5 at a time.  We also saw two bull elk!!  They had fairly big antlers already, which I thought was odd for this early in the year.  I took several photos – one hid out of sight but this one was within view, if you can call it that.  Elk are masters of camouflage and he stayed put behind this screen of saplings, making it difficult for the camera to focus on him.

Bull elk hiding in the brush.

Bull elk hiding in the brush.

Exhausted now and ready for bed.  Sorry if I blathered on too long about our day.  Hope I didn’t bore anyone!

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8 Responses to Birds Galore!

  1. avian101 says:

    Amy, you’re going to put me out of business with the bird photography! 🙂 Have fun and don’t stay too long exposed to the bitter cold.

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  2. Bob Zeller says:

    I think your photos are wonderful. You are doing just fine. And that area sounds like a place that I would love to be. Wonderful birds, etc. Wow! 🙂

    Like

    • Awww, thank you Bob, that means the world to me, coming from you!! I am trying to learn from all of you great photo-bloggers out there. I even was telling my husband about the nice bokeh in some of my photos! (Now I’m thinking I didn’t spell that right. LOL)

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  3. tootlepedal says:

    Knowing about the ISO is a big bonus and you certainly put it to good use.

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  4. I am going to have to have someone explain it to me because I don’t really know which way to go for which effect. I’m going to send Jerry an e-mail when I get home and ask him for the basic, basic “photography for dummies” explanation. Thanks Tom, for the compliment! I’m afraid now I compare myself to all you great photographers, but I’m trying to learn from all of you!

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  5. It wasn’t boring at all, you’re describing one of my favorite areas, and no blog post with an elk in it could ever be boring.

    And, you don’t have to Email me yet, I have already done a crash beginners course on the basics of photography on my blog, look under “Taking Good Nature Photos” in the menu.

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    • Thanks, Jerry! I will certainly check it out. Also, when we get home I’m going to search for the disc I know is floating around somewhere that goes with my camera. I’m sure it has a downloadable manual on it. I think Mark is starting to accept the fact that a new camera is on the horizon. LOL

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