Off to the Races

Northwoods Journal

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Mark’s co-worker and his son arrived around 9:30 p.m. last night.  We had time to visit for a bit before getting them situated in the guest room and on the pull-out sofa and then headed to bed.  Mark wanted to be up early to fix a hearty breakfast before heading out for the race.

The alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. and the dogs jumped up a lot faster than we did!  I stayed warm under the covers until Mark had them taken care of, then I got up to help him make blueberry pancakes (made with our up-north blueberries picked last summer) and bacon for breakfast.  They were bundled up and out the door by 8 a.m., headed to the Parc Exposé to check out the rally cars and see the standings before heading to the first stage of today’s race.

Milo was worn out from his early morning and settled down on a comfy pillow for a bit more rest. 🙂

It's hard work being a beagle!

It’s hard work being a beagle!

We had gotten a light dusting of snow overnight, but the temperature when they left was about the same as the high yesterday, so not bad weather for standing around all day.  I did miss yesterday’s sunshine though!

My morning whizzed by in a flurry of birds and race cars.  I bundled up and stood out on the porch with my camera taking photos of the birds until the rally cars started coming down our road around 10 o’clock.  I loved this shot of a blue jay with snow on his face!

Beautiful blue jay with a snowy face.

Beautiful blue jay with a snowy face.


Here’s the red-bellied woodpecker waiting for a turn at the platform feeder.

Fluffed-up red-bellied woodpecker.

Fluffed-up red-bellied woodpecker.

I am still on my quest for the perfect chickadee photo.  I’m not there yet, but the shots are getting better!  The cold weather helps, they don’t move quite as quickly when it’s cold!

A rare moment - a chickadee staying still!

A rare moment – a chickadee staying still!

When the rally cars started going by, I walked to the end of our driveway to take photos.  Even though our section of road is not a timed portion of the race, the teams still want to get to the starting line at Hungry 5 quickly.  I decided to use burst mode to shoot the photos.  I love clicking through them fast on my computer because it looks like the cars are moving!  But for blogging purposes, it might not have been the best choice.  Here is a gallery of just a small selection of cars.

Coming back inside, I just had time to get dinner in the crock-pot before the guys arrived.  They had about an hour to warm up and eat a sandwich before heading back out again.  Mark and I also took the dogs for a walk up Stevens Spring to the ATV crossing.  Since it was mild, and the trail was groomed for snowmobiles, we walked the dogs a short way down the trail to make sure they had a good amount of exercise.

I can’t get over how many birds have been at the feeders today!  I was excited to see a red-breasted nuthatch, so when the guys left I bundled up and stood out on the porch again, but do you think that guy would come back?  I was out there until my hands were numb with cold.  I came back in, set my camera on the kitchen table, turned around and what do you think I saw through the window but that stinking little bird!!  So, I went right back out and he DID come back, and even posed so nicely for me for several seconds but my autofocus would NOT lock in on him and the photo was blurry.  Big boo hoo!

I am posting this photo for other rubes like me who might draw comfort from my screw ups! 🙂  I’m not perfect and don’t pretend to be.  Honestly, this really IS a red-breasted nuthatch!

A red-breasted nuthatch, I swear!!

A red-breasted nuthatch, I swear!!

I counted a dozen blue jays at one time, and we also had chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker.

Downy woodpecker.

Downy woodpecker.

Even though the one blue jay is blurry, I like this photo.  Right before I hit the shutter, there had been four jays on the platform and I was trying to get them all at once, then they flew up and this was the result.


Dancing blue jays.

Dancing blue jays.

Again, I continued to work on getting a good chickadee photo.  I like this one with the seed in its mouth.

Chickadee with a seed.

Chickadee with a seed.

Still not as clear and sharp as I would like, but I’m getting there.

While I was sitting at the kitchen table, what should wander into the yard but a turkey!  We are used to seeing wild turkey up here, but I don’t know that I’ve ever had one visit my feeders before!  This is not the greatest photo, I was trying to take it out the crack in the door without scaring it away.  It actually did fly off right after I clicked the shutter.

Wild turkey at the feeder!

Wild turkey at the feeder!

The hardy race-goers were back mid-afternoon and I fed them a hearty meal of pork roast with potatoes and carrots and a very yummy gravy.  They didn’t linger too long as they wanted to get to the last stage of the race, Bonfire Alley, and Mark knew they would have a long walk to the viewing area.  I washed up all the dishes and by time I was done it was getting dark but I decided to bundle up and take the dogs for another walk.  We went all the way down the road to the ATV trail crossing near Nickerson Valley, so it was a good hike!  And I didn’t fall this time!  (Thankfully I was not too sore from my little mishap yesterday.)

If you would like a taste of the race, click here to see a YouTube video of one of the stages from yesterday.  (No video of Bonfire Alley was available yet.)

Bonfire Alley lived up to its name and the guys came back stinking like smoke.  Mark said they had to walk more than a mile to get to a place to view the race, it was already that crowded when they got there.  We have been discussing the big snowstorm that is set to hit our little corner of southeast Michigan tomorrow and our guests decided to be safe and head home tonight.  I tried to talk Mark into just hunkering down here for an extra day, but he’s concerned about his many projects at work and says we will leave early in the morning and hopefully beat the worst of the snow.

We had a quiet evening after our friends left.  Got the jigsaw finished and then headed to bed early.  Mark was worn out from his long day and all that walking through the snow and cold.

Puzzle complete!

Puzzle complete!

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8 Responses to Off to the Races

  1. kathydoremus says:

    Love the Blue Jay with the snowy face – great picture. 🙂


  2. Great shots here, the birds and the cars! Before I forget, here’s a little tip. If you know where a bird is likely to land, such as on the feeder, pre-focus on the feeder and wait for the bird to arrive. Then, the auto-focus is much more likely to catch the bird. It’s difficult at times, I’m always trying for other birds while I wait for one that I really want. 😉

    I really must make it up there for the Sno*Drift one of these years, that’s my kind of racing!

    I hope that every one made it home safely, that was a real deal snowstorm yesterday!


    • You hit it right on the head – I would focus on the feeder where I thought the nuthatch would land, but then I would get distracted by other birds elsewhere! And since it was so cold, I didn’t want to just stand there focusing on one thing. I will have to try your trick next time!

      You would have a great time at the race. Mark just wishes they would get some more big names again – Like when Travis Pastrana used to race in it – to get some real competition.

      We made it home but it was a harrowing drive!!


  3. avian101 says:

    Gorgeous pictures Amy! 🙂


  4. tootlepedal says:

    You were lucky to get so many birds with all the cars disturbing the peace.


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