Thursday, December 28, 2017
Every year I look back over the pictures I've taken and choose my favorites for that year. Moving to Traverse City a year ago created some challenges with finding all new landscape subjects and critter environments. But joining the local Audubon club was pivotal in helping me find new habitats to photograph. Fortunately, these places were both scenic and full of all kinds of birds and wildlife.
From spring through fall, hundreds of sandhill cranes populated the area I visit often. Sometimes I saw them in twos or threes, and other times I saw huge flocks of them on the ground or in the sky. This juvenile crane was such a cutie and was talking the whole time I photographed its family.
I've learned farmland sunset images can be as striking as sunsets over the water. On this particular evening, pinks and purples dominated the sky.
Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas are home to many orchards. This canopy of blossoms was representative of the many scenes found in these orchards during May.
Joining the local Audubon club exposed me to many new kinds of birds. This Cedar Waxwing with its striking mask was one of them. I'm hoping this species will visit my neighborhood this winter to taste my frozen Mountain Ash berries.
Here is another farmland sunset, this one resplendent with orange, gold, and salmon colors.
I'd seen one Great Blue Heron in Northport Creek, but it didn't stick around long enough for me to photograph it. This year, I photographed several Great Blues and I like this image the best. I thought it was going to take off, but it just ruffled its wings for me.
The red-topped spires at the Grand Traverse Commons have fascinated me. I tried getting as many in one image as I could.
I've seen several Bald Eagles in the coastal areas along Grand Traverse Bay, but had never gotten the chance to photograph one. I was lucky one afternoon driving along the bay on Old Mission. This eagle didn't seem too bothered by my appearance on its turf so I got several good images.
With the current irruption of Snowy Owls, they've become nearly commonplace to see and photograph. Still there is great excitement in seeing this beautiful bird.
What was my favorite image of 2017? It was this beautiful Red Fox photographed right in my neighborhood. I'd not seen one in my last few years in Northport, so it was thrilling to see this gorgeous critter so close to my home.
Sunday, December 24, 2017
There is so much I enjoy about the holiday season. Meaningful church services, beautiful carols, holiday lights and yard displays, candles burning brightly, and special times with family and friends.
Photography is also part of the season as I take holiday-themed pictures for my blog and decide which images to use on my annual Christmas card. My card includes pictures of the landscapes and critters I’ve photographed over the past year. I also include an image of Gracie, my four-year old mini-goldendoodle. She loves the camera and often accompanies me on photoshoots. She also does an amazing job modeling her Christmas “outfits."
The antler headband came with a bell attached to a ribbon hanging down from the holly-berry side. After a few times of Gracie swinging the bell around and trying to catch it in her mouth, the bell got removed.
Gracie's holiday neck scarf came next. It was a bit too big for her so we had to do some adjusting of the length to get it right.
The collars were the easiest. This red one had bells that lightly jingled, but they didn’t bother her like the antler bells did.
This is the picture I included on my Christmas card. By the time we got to this sitting, Gracie was pretty mellow…and full of the treats I’d used to encourage her to follow my sit, down, and stay commands. Good dog, Gracie.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, friends. I appreciate how you follow my photography blog. May the New Year bring joy, peace, and love to you and yours.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
I was correcting final exams when I got the call. It was my brother Mark and he was coming north so we could spend the day together and have a Christmas lunch. I was beyond excited! I also began to hatch a plan because I knew we couldn't spend much time together without heading outdoors to take pictures. The Snowy Owl sightings had been abundant the last few days, and Mark had never seen or photographed one before, so I hoped that would change with his visit.
He arrived early and we headed out late morning. My Audubon alerts reported there'd been local Snowy Owl sightings over the weekend at Wuerfel Park, the airport, and near the Holiday Inn. I thought we'd tried the ball park first and we'd not gotten far inside when we spotted a group of photographers taking aim at this female perched on an electrical box. She was squinting in the bright sunshine.
As we got closer, Mark said there was something wrong with the bird's eyes. I'd thought that too after my very first Snowy Owl sighting, but later learned that these birds have upper and lower eyelids. They also have a third, transparent eyelid that keeps their eyes moist and shades them from sunlight. This is really important for this owl species because it hunts in the daytime, unlike most other owls which are night critters.
All the photographers were keeping a respectful distance from this Snowy, and it seemed nonplussed by all the activity, including when a huge semi-truck noisily rumbled by. Secretly, we were all hoping it would take off so we could capture it in flight, but knew not to interfere with nature. But not everyone lives by those ethical rules and shortly after, a car pulled up close to the bird. The passenger rolled down her window and stuck out her camera phone, setting the bird in motion. I immediately saw that the owl had been tagged. Number 25! This was the same bird that'd been at the airport over the weekend.
The owl didn't go far and landed atop a pile of dirty snow not far from where a crow had also perched. The crow was babbling the whole time, but the Snowy just watched it. I wondered whether each considered the other as prey, but such a scenario didn't materialize. Looking at the ugly snow, I wished too that the owl would choose more photogenic places to perch.
Mark was dressed more warmly than I was so he shot outside the car with his long lens amplified even more by an extender. I stayed in the car and shot from my window, but even then, it was very cold. The temperature was in the high thirties, but the wind made it feel much colder. As I watched my brother shoot, I was grateful for the time we were having together, but was especially delighted that he was getting the opportunity to see and photograph this beautiful bird.
The Snowy Owl continued to watch the crow a while longer. I chuckled as it craned its neck while it was watching. To be sure, it kept those yellow eyes fixed on the crow until it flew off. It ended up being a wonderful day with my brother. I love having this southward invasion of Snowy Owls, known as an irruption. They are one critter I don't tire of seeing.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
The idea hatched over the summer. A group of neighbors decided to design, build, and install displays representing the Twelve Days of Christmas. Each yard would host a display representing one of the days. The results are spectacular. Sing along with me as I take you on a tour of the displays. On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me...
a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day, my true love sent two turtle doves.
On the third day, three French hens.
On the fourth day, four calling birds.
On the fifth day, five gold rings.
On the sixth day, six geese a-laying.
On the seventh day, seven swans a-swimming.
On the eighth day, eight maids a milking.
On the ninth day, nine ladies dancing.
On the tenth day, ten lords a-leaping.
On the eleventh day, eleven pipers piping.
The detail of each display is amazing. True artistry. My first visit to the display was at night. The street and all the twelve days were bright with lighting. But the lights washed out the detail more than I wanted so I returned the next day so I could better capture the specific features of each scene.
And finally, on the twelfth day, my true love sent to me, twelve drummers drumming. The whole project is a testament to what people can do when they work together.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
The recent snowfall ramped up the Christmas spirit as folks were out looking at all the lovely yard displays. Neighborhoods were filled with cars and walkers, all enjoying the beautiful lights. Traverse City loves to decorate for the holidays!
Thursday, November 30, 2017
Or so I thought. I went to Clinch Park Sunday afternoon to see if anything was happening. The place was fairly empty except for a few kids enjoying the playground and some folks walking dogs on the trail.
I spied this seagull and decided to take its picture. It was a regular run-of-the-mill seagull. The kind that begs from you at the beach and every park bench in the city.
It turned towards me and I noticed its beautiful, pale eye. I'd not paid much attention to this bird before. Its bill had a black ring near the tip too.
Besides the begging qualities of gulls, I'd seen them soaring on the thermals above the water at the beach. They've provided a great way for me to learn how to take pictures of birds in flight, or BIF as it's know in photography parlance.
As I moved on, I saw another bird posing on a post. I thought it was a gull, but it was sure different-looking than the first. I couldn't help myself from going straight to my bird app. And I was shocked! There are 27 kinds of seagulls in North America.
And of the 27, only two are year-round natives to our area. The first gull was clearly a Ring-billed Gull. The other native gull is a Herring Gull, which has a similar appearance to the Ring-billed Gull, except for a red spot on its bill. The gull above didn't have the markings of either of those gulls. But as I dug deeper into the app, I learned that this gull was a juvenile of one of the two local species.
I guess I learned a couple things from my photo-op with the gulls. A gull isn't just a gull. There are a lot more kinds than I originally had thought.
I also learned, but mostly saw, that the Clinch Park Marina gulls are pretty well-fed. Must be stocking up for the winter.