Keep Your Eye on the Birdie!

Northwoods Journal
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

We arrived at our northwoods hideaway Tuesday night. We left home around 4:45 but ran into bad traffic at Ann Arbor. We used to have this nifty detour we could take to get around the back-up at the S curve where 14 comes into US23, but now so many people know about it that it isn’t quicker anymore. We stopped once to grab a bite to eat, once for gas, and once to give the dogs a quick walk. Then we stopped at the Knot Hole in Comins to have a drink with my nephew who is an Oscoda County Sheriff’s Deputy. That meant it was well after 10 p.m. when we arrived. Thankfully no surprises or disasters met us, so we were able to unpack and fall into bed just after midnight.

Dogs might not be able to tell time, but Milo knows exactly when breakfast is supposed to be served, so there was no sleeping in, despite our late bedtime. I put the bird food and feeders out right away but the birds were slow to arrive. The first visitor was a ruby-throated hummingbird and that was the one feeder I hadn’t put out!! I quickly filled the nectar feeder with the homemade nectar I had brought up and later was rewarded with photos like this one of a female perched in the maple tree. This photo is not cropped at all!

Female ruby-throated hummingbird.

Female ruby-throated hummingbird.

The first bird we saw for the day was not at the feeders, it was rooting around in the leaves and turned out to be a veery! That was pretty exciting. The blue jays began arriving in droves not long after the hummingbird and then we had rose-breasted grosbeaks and lots of others. It ended up being a 23+ species day and 14 of those species we saw on our 3 acre property!

Female rose-breasted grosbeak trying to figure out the hanging feeder.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak trying to figure out the hanging feeder.

Blue jay with seed.

Blue jay with seed.

No big breakfast because Mark’s first priority was getting the new water pump installed and getting the water running. There was enough bird activity to keep me and my camera occupied. For the first time we were able to identify a warbler by its song before we saw it. I then stalked this black-throated green warbler all over our yard and woods, praying to get at least one useable photo. I managed to get two, along with lots of blurry ones!

Black-throated green warbler.

Black-throated green warbler.

Black-throated green warbler.

Black-throated green warbler.

We had plenty of rose-breasted grosbeaks and I just can’t resist posting a couple of pictures. They are so photogenic and fairly cooperative subjects!

Female rose-breasted grosbeak.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Thankfully the new pump fit on top of the pressure tank and the installation went fairly smooth. Around noon we had to make a quick run into town for a few last pipe fittings. It was lunch time when we got back and even though it was cool, we ate our sandwiches outside. Mark moved the table off the covered porch and into the sun. As we sat there eating, I saw a flash of red – a scarlet tanager had landed in one of our trees!

Male scarlet tanager.

Male scarlet tanager.

Later we saw the female. I was so excited because even though she was not as cooperative as her male counterpart, I had never seen, much less photographed, a female scarlet tanager before!

Female scarlet tanager.

Female scarlet tanager.

We also heard the warbling vireo singing while we were eating and I stalked it for a few minutes getting photos but I won’t post them here because it was above my head and all my photos are of his underparts!

While Mark finished up getting the pump running, I took the dogs for a hike. We went up Stevens Spring and to the two-track that leads back to Sportsmen’s Dam Lake. I was extra vigilant, both watching and listening for birds, but there was nothing of interest. There were 5 tundra swans on the lake, but I didn’t have my camera with me. On the way back, I saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker. It landed right in the middle of the road then flew back and forth across in front of me. When I got back, I told Mark about it and it wasn’t long before he came flying through our yard. This was the only decent shot I got, and as you can see his head was hammering away, so it’s a bit blurry. When I tried to creep closer and get a view without a branch in the way, he flew off.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker.

The pump was running when I returned which was GREAT news. Unfortunately, it was pulling up a lot of sand so the water was not running clear. Mark filled all the gallon jugs several times (he didn’t want to overwhelm our septic by running too much water down the drain) trying to get it to clear up. It looks like it will take a while.

Mark suggested we go looking for more birds, so we drove down to Voyer Lake hoping to see some ducks or loons, but there wasn’t anything to be seen. Then we drove up Sportsmen’s Dam Rd. to the power lines and down to the watershed area, where we had a lot more luck. I am getting better at being patient and just standing quietly, waiting to see something. Although we weren’t overwhelmed by birds, we did see eastern kingbirds, tree swallows, a northern flicker, red-winged black birds, a Baltimore oriole, and this common yellowthroat.

Common yellowthroat.

Common yellowthroat.

There was an elderly gentleman that drove down to Voyer Lake while we were standing on shore and he told us the ticks are really bad this year. Well, he wasn’t kidding! While standing at the watershed area, we were picking ticks off our clothes right and left. When we got back, I had to totally undress and turn all my clothes inside out to check them. I peeled more than 15 ticks off myself and my clothing!! This seemed incredible considering I was wearing multiple layers, I had my t-shirt tucked in, a belt on, and a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up! Needless to say, for the rest of the evening I had the creepy-crawlies!

After dinner, Mark took Daisy and Ruby for another quick walk while I cleaned up the mess and put everything away. When he got back, we went for a drive looking for wildlife. We only saw 5 or 6 deer. But as we drove up to one gas field, we could see several turkeys. My attention wasn’t on the turkeys though, it was on something else in the middle of the field. I grabbed the binoculars and saw it was a raccoon! What it was doing is anyone’s guess. At one point it stood up on its hind legs then sort of fell over. Unfortunately my photos aren’t good because I was shooting through the windshield plus it was dusk and the light was bad, and it really was beyond the range of my camera.

Raccoon doing...what?

Raccoon doing…what?

A short while later, we passed another gas field and I saw something moving. I told Mark to stop and back up and we were both pretty excited to see a badger!! Again, not a good photo due to the bad lighting and it being a bit far from my camera range, but I am still happy because in all the years we’ve been coming up here, we’ve only seen badgers a handful of times and I’ve never gotten a photo – good or bad- before!  (This is cropped, of course.)

Badger.

Badger.

By time we got home, we were both pretty worn out. It had been a very full and enjoyable day.

These are the bird species I saw and could positively identify: veery, ruby-throated hummingbird, blue jay, robin, rose-breasted grosbeak, chickadee, hairy woodpecker, black-throated green warbler, scarlet tanager, warbling vireo, yellow-bellied sapsucker, tundra swan, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, Baltimore oriole, eastern kingbird, red-winged black bird, common yellowthroat, tree swallow, northern flicker, mourning dove, red-bellied woodpecker, turkey.

I was so exhausted I fell asleep on the couch. I had to wake up and stumble back to bed. Tomorrow we hope to go on adventure looking for shore birds.

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15 Responses to Keep Your Eye on the Birdie!

  1. kathydoremus says:

    Wow! What a great variety of birds! Enjoy your weekend!

    Like

  2. Bob Zeller says:

    Oooh, what fun!! All them bird species plus some great four-legged wildlife thrown in. What a great day!!

    Like

    • It was awesome! I’m having a hard time reaching my 100 species goal for the year, though. Need to find some shorebirds or thrushes to add! I’m only at 79 so far!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bob Zeller says:

        It is nice to have a goal. Makes it more exciting. I have a goal of 210. Right now I am at 153, but it will be harder now until the fall migration gives me a chance to add some.

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      • I am glad I borrowed your idea of setting a goal because you are right, it does make the birding more fun and more exciting! Also, I’m trying harder to find birds and also looking for new and different places to go birding, so it has really expanded my horizons! I saw two more species to add to my list yesterday, so I’m now at 81. I’m hoping when we go down to the mountains in late June, I will see something different down there to add to the list!

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  3. Congratulations on all the different species of birds, and especially the badger! All I’ve ever seen of one is their tail as they disappear down their burrow.

    Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t have any vacation time this spring, as bad as the ticks are. I hate them with a passion. It’s hard to believe that they’re that bad already, didn’t it snow up there this week?

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    • My nephew said it did snow a little bit Tuesday and we saw a few flakes as we were driving in. So far it’s been very sunny but cool every day.

      Jerry, the ticks are AWEFUL!! Yesterday we went “off the beaten path” and oh my gosh, we all got completely COVERED with them!!!! Ugh! Locals have been talking that they’ve never seen them this bad.

      Like

  4. tootlepedal says:

    Well done for spotting so many interesting birds and animals.

    Like

  5. avian101 says:

    This time you can’t complaint that you didn’t see many birds Amy! Enjoy yourself but do not get exhausted too often. 🙂 Nice pictures!

    Like

    • Thank you, H.J.! It’s been wonderful to see so many. Can you please tell my husband not to get us too exhausted?! He just doesn’t know how to rest when we are up here! 🙂

      Like

  6. Tiny says:

    How great to have a place right in the nature! You can do birding right at your property, and reach other interesting wildlife spots from there. Beautiful shots! They area all colorful birds, but the tiny hummingbird stole my heart 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks, Tiny! This place is definitely the “home of my heart” and we would live here if we could figure out a way to support ourselves financially. I was pretty excited about the hummingbird photo, considering my camera is not a DSLR and I’m relatively new to the art of photography. Every now and then I stumble upon a winner and get really excited. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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