Sunrise Side Surprise

Northwoods Journal
Monday, July 6, 2015

It was already warm and humid when we got up in the morning. The forecast was calling for a hot day and they would be right. We ate a simple breakfast out on the porch and watched the birds.  There was a female and male rose-breasted grosbeak this morning.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak.
Female rose-breasted grosbeak.
Male rose-breasted grosbeak.
Male rose-breasted grosbeak.

I didn’t dawdle watching the birds too long because I had to wash up and dress so we could take the dogs for a short hike. We went out through our woods to the clear-cut area then up Stevens Spring to the ATV trail and followed it back to the marshy end of Sportsmen Dam Lake. Even mid-morning it was already too hot to go very far. We saw an indigo bunting and a great crested flycatcher but I didn’t attempt to get any photos.

We had agreed to do something “touristy” today but couldn’t seem to agree on just what that should be. Since it was going to be a hot day, a drive sounded like a nice idea so we settled on taking a tour up the Sunrise Coast of the state, north of Alpena and hoping to get to Mackinaw City. I packed us a nice picnic lunch and we set off.

Mark took the “back way” to Alpena down Long Rapids Road and it was a really nice drive with plenty to see along the way. Much prettier than taking M32 across. Our plan was to stop first at the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary and this time we DID find the entrance, only to find that the park is under construction and there was no access to the Island Park. This was disappointing, but now that we know how to get in, we will make a visit another time.

We continued north on US23, stopping at a roadside park next to Grand Lake for our picnic lunch. Unfortunately there were no picnic tables in the shade and the sky was still hazy with a very harsh light. It wasn’t soft light like on a cloudy day, but a hard light that hurt the eyes. I decided to try the polarizing filter on my camera to see if that would help defuse the light, but I’m not at all sure I liked the results. Here is the view from our picnic spot.

On the shore of Grand Lake north of Alpena.
On the shore of Grand Lake north of Alpena.

I thought this sailboat looked inviting, but it really was out of range of my camera and the bright light didn’t help matters.

Sailboat on Grand Lake.
Sailboat on Grand Lake.

After our lunch, we continued up the coast and wouldn’t you know, not too much farther north we found a nicer picnic area right on the shore of Lake Huron! We got out and walked down to the beach to take in the view. I was wishing I had brought my flip-flops so I could stick my toes in the water. You can see from this photo that the hazy sky just about blends in with the surface of the lake!

A hazy view of Lake Huron.
A hazy view of Lake Huron.

There were two birds in the pine trees next to the parking lot and for a few minutes we thought they might be Kirtland’s warblers, which caused us some momentary excitement. I tried to get a couple of photos shooting from underneath, but none of the shots turned out and after consulting the field guides, Mark decided they weren’t Kirtland’s after all, so nothing to get excited about after all. They were probably yellow-rumped warblers.

We hadn’t gone too much farther when we saw a sign for Hoeft State Park. We had never been to this park before so decided to check it out. It turned out to be more of a camping state park, kind of like Clear Lake near our cabin. But they have a day use area so we decided to see what there was to see. We had barely stepped onto the trail that leads to the beach when we saw a tiny ball of fluff on the ground – a baby bird right on the trail!

Baby bird calling for momma.
Baby bird calling for momma.

Of course I immediately dropped down to start taking photos and it wasn’t but a moment when the mother (?) arrived to feed the fledgling.

Yellow-throated vireo feeding baby.
Yellow-throated vireo feeding baby.

Whether the baby fell out of the nest, or just failed at fledging, I have no idea. I must have taken at least 50 photos, creeping closer every few minutes. I spent at least a half-hour on the ground watching these two, and warning passers-by to not step on the poor, helpless baby. Mark went back to the car for the field guide and after much discussion and referring back to my photos, we decided this is a yellow-throated vireo!

Yellow-throated vireo and baby.
Yellow-throated vireo and baby.
Yellow-throated vireo with bug to feed baby vireo.
Yellow-throated vireo with bug to feed baby vireo.

Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, my photos did not turn out very good. Most of them were blurred in one way or another, probably because the baby never stopped quivering and the parent(s) flew in and out so quickly. I wasn’t thinking well enough to switch my camera to Tv and use a fast shutter speed. (Although I did remember to take off the polarizing filter!)

Since we watched for so long, I decided to switch to video and I even managed to edit the video once we got home, convert it, and upload it to YouTube. I am going to attempt to post it here. I hope this works! You might want to take a dose of Dramamine before watching. I’m no videographer. LOL

While watching the birds, something high in the trees caught my eye and I glanced up to see this red squirrel dangling by its toes from a branch. What a hilarious sight!

Acrobatic red squirrel.
Acrobatic red squirrel.

Eventually, I got up off the ground so we could leave the vireos in peace. Before walking on though, I did use my hand to scoot the baby off the trail so it wouldn’t get stepped on. It was hard to leave them to their own devices. I could have sat and watched them all day! All I can do is hope that baby finally started to fly before the day was over.  (And you notice I limited the number of photos I posted here.  I did take A LOT! LOL)

As we walked toward the beach, a flash of color high in the canopy caught my eye. Hmmmm, this is an odd bird! 🙂

Someone lost a kite.
Someone lost a kite.

The park has a very nice shelter house with picnic tables, a fire place, bathrooms, etc., down near the beach. We stopped there to inspect the photos I took and consult the field guide some more, trying to make sure of our I.D. People were coming up from the beach complaining that the biting flies were vicious, so I was glad I was wearing jeans! This is the view down to the beach.

Boardwalk down to the beach, Hoeft State Park.
Boardwalk down to the beach, Hoeft State Park.

Here is the life boat. It probably would have made a better composition if the light wasn’t so washed out.

Lifeboat on the beach.
Lifeboat on the beach.

We walked one of the hiking trails just a short way, to another access point to the water.

Lake Huron as seen from Hoeft State Park.
Lake Huron as seen from Hoeft State Park.

It was way too hot to walk far and the flies WERE biting, even through our T-shirts! Baby vireo and parent were still there when we walked back to the parking lot. On our way out we stopped at the check-in station at the entrance to see if anyone there was well versed in birds and of course it was just two teenaged girls who didn’t really know a thing. We told them of the baby vireo on the ground and said perhaps someone should check later to see if it was still there. I can only hope it had a good fate.

By this time the afternoon was quickly disappearing and we still had the dogs back “home” to worry about, so it was obvious we weren’t going to make it to Mackinaw City. We never even made it to Cheboygan! Mark did drive a bit farther up the road and we stopped at a boat launch area where I got to add another bird to my 2015 Big Bird List – a spotted sandpiper! Finally, a shore bird!

Spotted sandpiper.
Spotted sandpiper.
Spotted sandpiper on the shore of Lake Huron.
Spotted sandpiper on the shore of Lake Huron.

Again, not the most stellar photos, but I will take what I can get at this point!

There was also this huge flock of common mergansers. This photo is awful because they really were too far away, but I’m posting it only to show how huge the flock of ducklings were. When we really blew it up on my computer screen, Mark and I counted at least 24 ducklings! We think there might be 3 adult mergansers in there, too, but we can’t be sure. I tried to walk closer, but the farther I walked up the beach, the faster they continued to swim away from me.

Huge flock of common mergansers.
Huge flock of common mergansers.

Before we left, I made another attempt at flying bird photos. Does this look like I’m improving any?

Flying sea gull.
Flying sea gull.

Leaving the boat launch, we decided it was time to head back home. We really were only minutes from Black Mountain so five hours after leaving the cabin we ended up only about 40 minutes away! I’m not sure how that worked. I was hoping for ice cream on the way home but we never passed an ice cream place. We made tacos for dinner and sat out on the porch, then had to take the dogs for another short hike, since they had been cooped up all day. We saw three deer on our hike. I didn’t even bother to take my camera and figured we would be sure to see an elk! Thankfully, we did not. Even though it was still incredibly hot and humid, I made us a blueberry cobbler for dessert with the last of our home grown blueberries. It would have been even better with ice cream! 🙂

It was so sticky-humid when we headed to bed, I was hoping for a rain shower during the night to break things up.  I went to bed feeling quite pleased with our day, especially our surprise encounter with the baby vireo.

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5 Responses to Sunrise Side Surprise

  1. Great photos of the baby vireo, young birds often crash the first time that they try to fly, the parents are usually able to keep them safe.

    I’m glad that you were able to find the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary, but too bad it was closed. You’ll have to go back next spring to check out the warblers.

    We’re so lucky to live in Michigan where there are so many parks, large, small, and even tiny, scattered throughout the state as they are. From all the state parks to the little roadside picnic areas, we can usually find a spot to waste time while enjoying nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tiny says:

    What a great encounter with the baby vireo and parent(s)! I love the picture with mom feeding the bug to baby! I understand exactly how difficult it is to leave when you didn’t get to see the baby to fly as yet. And I liked the video too – no medication necessary 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Tiny! I was so excited to watch that baby. I couldn’t get over the number of people who just passed on by, even after we told them what we were watching! I could barely drag myself away while others didn’t give a whit! I really must be a “bird brain!” LOL

      Liked by 1 person

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