It’s Raining, Birds!

Northwoods Journal

Friday, May 09, 2014

We arrived just after 7:30 p.m. yesterday evening after a fairly easy drive up.  We unloaded, unpacked and took the dogs for a short walk up Stevens Spring to the ATV trail crossing and then meandered our way back again.  I think we were both a bit disappointed that it isn’t a whole lot greener here than it was three weeks ago.

The evening was fair, with no wind, so Mark wanted a campfire.  We knew the weather was forecast to change so he wanted to enjoy it while we could.  We sat around the fire while night fell.  There wasn’t much to hear except the spring peepers.  Something howled/screeched at one point and we looked at each other, both wondering if it was a coyote or an owl.  Neither one of us knew and the sound never came again.  I had had a physically taxing and emotionally draining week so was exhausted and really just wanted to crawl into bed, so we didn’t keep the fire going for very long.

The sky was heavy with gray clouds when we awoke this morning.  Soon we could hear the pitter-patter of raindrops and before long a thunderstorm rolled through.  Mark got out of bed and dealt with the dogs but I had a hard time getting up with the sky being so dark.  I waited for the storm to pass before getting up.  I decided to uncover my jigsaw puzzle on the kitchen table – the bird puzzle I started in January and never finished.  I sat and worked on it while I drank my coffee.  Despite the rain, Mark had put out the bird feeders and it didn’t take long for the first guests to arrive.  They seemed to open the floodgates and we had non-stop bird activity all day long.  I love migration time and this is considered the “greatest week in American birding”.

Goldfinches on the new thistle sack.

Goldfinches on the new thistle sack.

Mark fired up the Coleman stove and made us Spam and eggs for breakfast.  It was warm enough to eat out on the porch and enjoy the birds.  They weren’t the least bit daunted by the persistent drizzle.  Soon we had rose-breasted grosbeaks arriving and their numbers increased throughout the day.  At one point I counted 7 males and nearly as many females.

I wasn’t able to buy my new camera before this trip, but I feel even with my old camera I rocked it out on these rose-breasted grosbeak photos.  I am pretty proud of them! They are not cropped at all.  (Please click on any photo to see a larger view and get the full affect!)

Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

If you click on the photos you will see the seeds in his beak. 🙂

After breakfast, Mark dressed and got ready to take the dogs out but I was still in my pajamas, sitting out on the porch with my camera and coffee so he went on without me.  I didn’t want to drag myself away from all the birds!

Female rose-breasted grosbeak.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak.

Two female rose-breasted grosbeaks and a cowbird.

Two female rose-breasted grosbeaks and a cowbird.

Hairy woodpecker.

Hairy woodpecker.

This hairy woodpecker shot is another photo I was pretty pleased with, considering the limitations of my camera.  It is not cropped at all..  I am not a photographer by any stretch and right now I just have a small Kodak point and shoot digital camera, so I am learning as I go.  I hope to have a camera with a longer zoom by our next trip up.  When I began this blog, I never meant for the focus to be on photographs, but I think it makes my blog more appealing to be able to “show” as well as “tell”.

Eventually I finished my coffee and turned off my camera, knowing I had to get dressed because we had things to accomplish today.  I was ready when Mark and the dogs returned and we headed toward Hillman to the building supply store.  The tank on our toilet cracked clear through over the winter – despite the fact that we drained it – so we needed to replace the toilet.  The bathroom faucet is also leaking so Mark wants to replace that, too.  The building supply place has way high prices so we ended up driving to Alpena to Home Depot.  It is only about 25 miles from Hillman to Alpena but it seems like a very long drive!

At Home Depot we bought a new toilet, new faucets for both the bathroom and kitchen.  (Mark had acquired a kitchen sink to replace the old one awhile back but just never got around to doing it, so that is on the agenda for this weekend, too.)  Plus a rake and a storage cabinet thing for Mark to stow some of his tools and other things like the tackle box and such.  I think next trip the old metal shed is coming down.  That thing it totally falling apart and is an eyesore.  After Home Depot we went next door to Wal-Mart.  I have been wanting a new table for the porch since last year Mark melted a hole in the old one with the Coleman stove.  Now that he built himself a nice work table for his stove, I don’t have to worry about that anymore.  We found a new table, the exact same one – plus a whole bunch of other things and $90 later we were leaving the store and heading home.

The wind had picked up something fierce and we heard on the radio there were severe storms north of here.  It continued to sprinkle on and off throughout the afternoon, looking like it could storm any second but it didn’t, thankfully!  Mark set right to work replacing the old toilet and I went back to work watching and photographing birds!  We had two pair of Baltimore orioles show up and it was fun watching them vie for the suet with the rose-breasted grosbeaks.

Female oriole and male rose-breasted grosbeak having a stare-down over the suet.

Female oriole and male rose-breasted grosbeak having a stare-down over the suet.

Male Baltimore oriole.

Male Baltimore oriole.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Mark said he saw three different types of warblers flitting around in the underbrush but they are very hard for me to spot and nearly impossible for me to photograph.  He took me to the place where he had seen them and we waited and soon we saw three yellow and gray warblers flitting in and out.  Every time I would get a bead on one with my camera, off it would go farther into the brush.  I did manage two photos and after consulting the bird books we determined they were Nashville warblers.

Can you see the "leetle yellow bird?" LOL

Can you see the “leetle yellow bird?” LOL

I know this is not a good photo, but it was the best I managed with those tiny things darting about.  Mark said he also saw a yellow-rumped warbler but I never got to see that one so I did not include it in my bird count.

My bird count for today was 16 species: rose-breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles, Nashville warblers, blue jay, goldfinch, white-breasted nuthatch, chipping sparrows, chickadees, cowbird, grackle, mourning dove, robin, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker and ruby-throated hummingbird.

We saw the hummingbird just as we were preparing dinner, poking around the purple sunflower feeder, so I quickly mixed up some nectar and hung the hummingbird feeder out.  I never saw it again but hopefully it will show up tomorrow.

We made a pot of chicken rice soup and ate out on the porch where we could continue to enjoy all the bird activity.  The sun finally broke out around 6:30 and the sky started to clear.  Mark was tired but the dogs were not so when dinner was over we loaded them up and went for a combination drive and hike.  We also hoped to spot more birds and Mark was hoping to find a morel mushroom or two, since he had read in the paper that they are being found in the county.  I am not a mushroom hunter and I would not eat a morel – no way, no how – but Mark loves the things.  He got lucky the first place we stopped to walk and found one right away.

Morel mushroom.  I have no idea how Mark spots these things.  It's a gifting.

Morel mushroom. I have no idea how Mark spots these things. It’s a gifting.

DING, DING, DING!!  I just discovered I can make my photos larger when I insert them in my post.  Oh goodness, I am laughing at myself!!  Been blogging for more than a year and I am still learning and figuring things out!! LOLOL

We also saw these pretty yellow flowers that I believe were bellwort but my attempts at photographing them proved  I have a long way to go in learning about macro-photography so  I am not sharing them here.

I took all three dogs on down the trail and let Mark hunt mushrooms while I gave the dogs their exercise.  He ended up finding 5 and could have found more I’m sure if I had let him hang around and keep looking.  He plans to go out early in the morning to hunt again.

Next we drove down Brush Creek Truck Trail and found the side trail that leads to the big watershed area.  We had hoped to see waterfowl but there were none to be seen.  There is an earthen dam that goes across the creek forming a small lake.  The water was low enough that we could traverse across it, although Mark and I both nearly went headlong into the water a time or two!  There is a large beaver lodge in the lake.  I don’t know if it’s still in use but there are plenty of signs of beaver activity in the fallen logs along the lake shore.

Beaver lodge.

Beaver lodge.

We also found one of the largest fresh-water clam shells we’ve seen.  I nearly fell in again fishing this thing out of the water!

Fresh-water clam shell.

Fresh-water clam shell.

We traipsed along the hillside that parallels the creek, trying to find access down to the water and still hoping to see ducks.  No ducks, just a nesting box.

Nesting box.

Nesting box.

Daisy and Ruby had to test the creek waters, of course.

Daisy taking a quick dip.

Daisy taking a quick dip.

By this time Milo was pooping out so we decided to call it a day.  Mark was tired, too, from all his labors this afternoon.  We saw 20 or so deer as we drove back home.  Dishes were waiting when we got here.  I guess there are no little northwoods fairies to do them for me.  We heard the faint song of the hermit thrush down in the woods as night fell.  The wind is still blowing as we head to bed.  I sure hope it blows in nicer weather for tomorrow – and maybe more birds!

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8 Responses to It’s Raining, Birds!

  1. I’m very happy that there were no mentions of snow or ice, as I am headed your way tomorrow (Sunday) to begin my vacation.

    Your photos are very good for a point and shoot, I know how difficult birds are to photograph using one. I never intended to include so many photos when I began blogging either, but I found that the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” to be true, and photos saved me a lot of typing. 😉

    I can tell that you’ve caught the birding bug, the Nashville warbler is a good catch!

    Like

    • I hope the wind dies down for you, today it is so dang windy, it’s hard to be out. I went back to the lake behind our place and there were a DOZEN tundra swans! I took a video of them because they were just honk-honk-honking but when I watched it on my laptop all you can hear is the wind blowing ninety miles an hour! Have a great vacation. Will you be blogging as you go or will you have to wait until you get home? Can’t wait to read all about your adventures!
      And I was excited about the Nashville warbler. The way they were darting about, I didn’t think any of the pictures would turn out at all.

      Like

  2. avian101 says:

    Amy, you did a great job with your little camera, the bird pictures are very good. Enjoy! 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you, H.J! The bird watching is extremely good right now. I am anxious to get my new camera but while I wait I am learning new things about my old one and getting some better pictures with it now. 🙂

      Like

  3. tootlepedal says:

    I wasn’t a photographer at all when |i started my blog but once you have put one or two on, the urge to try to take better pictures is hard to resist…..and hard to do as well.

    Like

    • I’m so glad you can relate to me in this area, Tom! I am a writer, and when I started this blog, I expected to write, lol, I never thought about photography. But as I began to find blogs that I enjoy following, and learning from them, I quickly saw that good photographs played an important role, as well as an interesting narrative. Now I find I have picture/camera envy! To think that a year ago I loved my little Kodak and was so impressed by the pictures I was able to take with it! I am also a “continually recovering perfectionist” and a bit competitive, so I want to do my best and aim to reach the level of the blogs I think are really good – such as yours.

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      • tootlepedal says:

        A word of warning. Whatever your new camera is, it will never be as good as the one that you really need. This particularly applies to lenses. Start saving now.

        Like

    • Oh dear! I am afraid this could turn into an extremely expensive hobby! I am debating right now between two different cameras, trying to decide if it would be worth it to spend the extra money now. I’m a bit worried I will get the one and then want to upgrade again in a year! :O

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