Thursday, March 22, 2018


I’ve been awaiting their arrival for weeks.  I’d heard that sometime during late winter, Cedar Waxwings would arrive and feast on the Mountain Ash berries in my backyard.

Now, there’s more to the story.  These berries have spent months fermenting over the winter.  Rumors have it that the birds get inebriated on the berries and display erratic, drunken behaviors.

I heard them before I saw them.  The air was filled with the high-pitched calls of Cedar Waxwings.  Since there were so many of them, I knew something was happening even from inside my home.

The Cedar Waxwing is a striking bird.  Red-brown body.  Buff under parts.  Yellow-tipped tail.  But it’s the black mask outlined in white that’s the hallmark of this bird.

Cedar Waxwings also have a crested or plumed head; some crests are larger than others.  This well-fed waxwing has a very prominent crest.  Also notice the red, wax-like tips on bird’s secondary feathers, which help sustain the bird in the air and give it lift.  The red wax-like tips are where these birds get their names.

  Waxwings are voracious eaters.  They swoop onto the tree as a group, chow on the berries, and then fly back to the stand of evergreens at the back of my yard.  This behavior has gone on for this whole week.


I was amazed at the acrobatics the Waxwings went through to get at the fruit.  Some even hung upside down like trapeze artists.

The Waxwings weren’t the only birds eyeing the action.  This Robin looked like it was ready to partake in the fruit feast too.

I was right on that call as it jumped over to another branch and quickly went bottom up as it nibbled away on the berries.

  It was great fun watching the Cedar Waxwings enjoy the berries.  And it didn’t appear that any of them got “drunk” over the fermented fruits.  But at week's end, the Mountain Ash was completely stripped of its berries.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


The morning after I’d photographed the eagles, I wandered into habitats I’d not visited before.

I happened upon a beautiful marsh, resplendent with red vegetation.  I’d not seen anything like it in the area before.

As I drew closer to the water, I could see it was frozen.  Part of me wasn’t surprised at that because I was in a deep valley at the base of two hills.  Another part did surprise me, though, because many of the farmland ponds in the area were already free of ice and hosting migrating Cackling Geese and Trumpeter Swans.

When I reached the far edge of the marsh, I began to understand the scope of this wetland.  I was intrigued by the red vegetation.  From a distance, it reminded me of the Pickleweed I’d seen in some salt marshes around the east coast.

I finally reached a spot where I could take in the marsh as a whole.  The vista was stunning and I looked forward to exploring the wetland more in the spring.

And then, just as I was leaving the marsh, I heard a familiar bugling call.  Cranes!  I had just enough time to grab my long lens and get a quick shot off before they flew completely out of my range.  Wow!  Two surprises in one morning.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


When my brother was visiting a week ago, we saw an eagle in a distant tree, but it stayed out of photography range the whole time. 

I returned to the same area later in the week, and the eagle's unmistakable shape told me it was still hanging around.  I wondered what the attraction was.

It was too far away to get the kind of detailed shots I prefer, but I still felt excitement build as I drove off and hoped the eagle would come closer next time I came by.

  On my next pass, the eagle was sitting in a field, much closer to the road.  It was staring intently at something I assumed was some kind of prey.  How right I was as someone had dumped the carcasses of four deer at the edge of the field.


While I watched the ever-vigilant eagle looking in all directions, my mind also focused on where those deer had come from.  It was upsetting not to know the story behind how the deer carcasses had suddenly arrived in that spot.

  The eagle stared at me with those pale yellow eyes, which told me the bird was a young adult.  Its beak was also unmarked, another sign of the youth of this bird.

The eagle continued to focus most of its attention towards the deer.  What a handsome bird this was!  While I enjoyed watching the bird close up, I knew it was only a matter of time before it took flight.

  In an instant, the eagle took to the air.  It was thrilling to see, but what a challenging transition it was for this photographer!

  Off it went and was soon out of range.  It didn't return so I called it a day, but it was an exciting adventure nevertheless. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018


March, probably the longest month of the least emotionally.  The month where our hopes turn to longer days, sunnier skies, and warmer temperatures.  While there are many natural signs that winter is on the wane, we are clearly in between this season and the next.

The snow is diminishing, especially around town.  Ugly piles from snowplowing are mostly what're left.  At least until we’re struck with late winter snowfall.   Like today, perhaps. 

In the countryside, it’s a mixed bag.  North facing hillsides continue to be thick with snow while sites graced with the sun’s southerly touch are beginning to show plow lines, tall grass, and corn stalk remnants.

The pond where I photographed a Great Blue Heron last summer remains frozen and inhabited only by the muskrats and beavers who’ve built shelters to survive winter’s cold.

Last Saturday, on a partly sunny afternoon when my brother was visiting, we decided to drive to Empire to have dinner and catch a sunset.  Party sunny skies made the promise of a sunset very real, yet by the time we arrived, the clouds had moved in and effectively blocked the chance of seeing the sun set.

Still, the beach scene was beautiful.  The Lake was mostly free of ice; interesting ice formations lined the shoreline; and Empire Bluffs and South Manitou nicely framed the whole tableau.

While it was chilly near the shoreline, the wind was calm making it easy to explore the dune grass, beach, and ice formations. 

Earlier that day, when my brother and I had been exploring the countryside south of town, we drove by this cornfield.  In my mind’s eye, I could still visualize last season’s Sandhill Cranes doing their herky-jerky moves across the field as they feasted among the leftover corn stalks.

Passing this still frozen wetland pond on our way back home, I recalled all the migrating birds I’d seen there last spring.  I wondered whether they could already be on their way here.  That’s what the long in between is about, isn’t it?  Hope for what’s coming next. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Waterfowl often winter on the Great Lakes, but when the bays and lakes freeze over, they are forced to find open waters in area rivers.  As I traveled along Eight Street on Saturday, I noticed that hundreds of ducks were on the Boardman River.

I pulled into the parking spot overlooking the river and was shocked at the numbers I was seeing.  I hardly knew where to aim my camera.  Later that day I learned I wasn’t the only person duck watching.  One seasoned birding observer counted over 800 ducks in a 16 minute segment. 

The Redheads clearly had the greatest numbers on the river.  The pair on the right are incredibly beautiful; the male’s in the foreground and the female’s just behind him.  I was most taken, however, with the duck on the left, a Common Goldeneye. 

Not only was its black and white coloring striking, but I found even more interesting the white, circular patch near the duck’s beak.  It was so fluffy!

As the Goldeneye turned and swam away from me I noticed the markings on its back.  I also saw how powerfully it was paddling.

Another black and white duck had begun propelling itself in my direction.  It was one of the Scaups.  I chuckled at how the angle of the image gave the duck an intense expression.

I quickly saw, however, that the Scaup’s intensity wasn’t meant for me.  It must’ve spotted some prey deep in the water and immediately went into a dive.

Bottoms up!

Only the wake bubbles were left behind.