Friday, April 14, 2017

BEACH TIME


It'd been sunny all day and I decided to head to Lake Michigan for the sunset.  Empire became my destination since it was only thirty minutes away.



By the time I arrived at the beach, clouds above the horizon had begun to obscure the possibility of a clear sunset.



I love the Empire beach because it has so much to offer.  Lots of beautiful sand and dune grass are there to enjoy.



The Empire Bluffs also provide a striking backdrop in the distance. 



The brick wall makes a perfect place for watching the sunset.



There's so much to do at the Empire Beach.  Kids were playing on the swings and shooting hoops at the basketball court.  A few people were tossing tennis balls to their dogs  too.



A dune buggy without a top was even enjoying the beach;  I noticed the driver was dressed in a warm coat and  winter hat.



While the sunset didn't materialize as I'd hoped, the many people enjoying their time outdoors was a clear sign that beach time was here.


Friday, April 7, 2017

MAJESTIC!!!


There's a certain amount of serendipity in photography.  You've got to be in the right place at the right time.  That happened to me as I driving on Old Mission Peninsula towards Bowers Harbor.



I saw it from a distance...the distinctive brown body with a white head.  My heart quickened.  I slowed the car, pulled over, and rolled down my window. 



I had my walk-around lens on my camera body, and worried it wouldn't have enough length.  But as the Bald Eagle turned and looked down at me, I could see with the first few shots that it was just fine.



I'd seen several Bald Eagles before, but never had the chance to photograph one.  From its beat-up bill, it appeared that this was a mature bird.  Eagles can live up to 38 years.



The eagle seemed to be staying put, so I was able to switch to my longer, close-up lens.  Occasionally, it would look down at me with its eagle eye.  I wouldn't want to tangle with this one! 



But most of the time the eagle was focused out over Bowers Harbor searching for its next meal.  They eat mainly fish and the bird was attentive to what was happening in the calm waters of this bay.  I'd hoped to get the chance to see it swoop down and claim a fish from the water, but that didn't happen.



Then the bird struck the classic Bald Eagle pose...the one you see on money, flags, and stamps.  What a strong, yet beautiful critter!  No wonder it's our national emblem.



How majestic this Bald Eagle was!  And what a special photo opportunity it was for me.


Friday, March 31, 2017

A GROWING MENAGERIE


Seeing all kinds of critters in the outdoors gives me great pleasure.  My bird feeders are attracting more and more varieties with each passing day.



I have bushes on each side of my feeders that provide safe havens for the birds before they hop onto the feeders.  This male cardinal is hardly hidden, though, with its striking, vibrant red body.



This chubby little Black-capped Chickadee does a better job of blending in with the woody branches.



It jumps onto the feeder, grabs a few seeds, and then flits off to the nearby, dense evergreens.  Once there, it sings out in contentment fee-bee...fee-bee. 



The finches have also finally found the feeders in the last couple weeks.  These American Goldfinches are wearing their beautiful yellow colors, with the male being the brighter of the pair.



The most recent finch to visit is this male House Finch.  I've yet to hear what its song is like, but I hope to become more acquainted with this variety.  But birds aren't the only visitors to my feeders.



I dropped a feeder with safflower seed on the ground and actually forgot about it for a few days.  When I peeked out the next morning, I found this bunny enjoying the seed as much as any of the birds had.  Who would've thought I'd have a rabbit at my feeders!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

AWAKENING


With the arrival of spring this week, it seemed like the perfect time to explore some of the Boardman Valley Nature Preserve areas, which had been frozen over in the winter months.  I expected to see waterfowl and I was not disappointed.



Two Mute Swans were cruising the pond waters.  One seemed pretty content to just paddle along.



The other was busy with the important job of preening its feathers.



Then a handsome pair of mallard ducks came close enough for me to get a good image of them.



Almost out of my range, I spied another pair of ducks, but I wasn't able to identify them.  Hmmm.



But most of these waterfowl were busy dunking themselves in the water and getting vegetation off the pond bottom for food.



As I watched the swan engage in the same behavior, I had to chuckle as it appeared it was going to tip over in its search.  I imagined what that long neck was doing as it swept along the pond floor.

Friday, March 17, 2017

VISITING OWLS


I was beginning to wonder if I was going to photograph any owls this year.  Then I read that the Wildlife Recovery Association was doing an owl presentation at the Boardman River Nature Center.  I jumped at the chance to see some owls and learn about their habitats.  All the owls that the organization brought had been injured and were now living their lives at the sanctuary.



The first owl was a small, reddish-brown Eastern Screech Owl.  Its big, yellow eyes are striking! This owl is stocky, and has a large head with no neck.



Here is another Eastern Screech Owl, but in the gray variety.  The ear tufts on this owl type are almost always raised.



This owl's restlessness was a signal that it was ready to return to the safety of its cage.  Notice the handler is wearing thick gloves for protection from the owl's serious claws.



Oh, my.  This next owl was such a cutie.  It was a pint-sized (literally) Saw-Whet Owl.  It is a very shy owl and prefers a dense habitat.  To accommodate this owl's need for privacy, the handlers built a garment with its own protective hollow. 



The Saw-Whet's shyness was obvious as it didn't look right at people, instead keeping its eyes down-turned.



I was nearly duped into its sweetness; that is until I noticed its hooked beak, which it uses to grip and tear its prey.



Then came the largest owl, and my favorite, the Barred Owl.  When I lived in Northport, I would often hear Barred Owls calling to each other with their distinctive and recognizable call:  Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you all?



This beautiful bird gets its name from the striped bars that cover its body.  It's unique from many other owls, in that it doesn't have ear tufts.



It's warm brown-black eyes and round head are somewhat deceiving at the sweetness of this owl, but, again, its beak is a reminder of the work these raptors do to survive in the wild.  What an enjoyable time it was to see these owls close-up.  Many thanks to the Wildlife Recovery Association for the work they do.  If you'd like more information, their website is wildliferecovery.org.