Saturday, February 28, 2015


It's been another week in the deep freeze.  My two dogs can hardly be outside for any length of time without them lifting their paws from the cold snow.  What must it be like for the deer and other critters who get no respite from these conditions?  The snow cover keeps the deer from browsing for fronds, broad-leaf plants, grasses, and hard and soft mast, such as acorns and berries.  Their energy requirements are especially great in the winter so I try to help by putting out two kinds of feed blocks.  

Late in the afternoon the deer begin to trickle in to my safe haven.

They come singly or in pairs.  Most of the time I have five regulars.  But in extreme conditions, I've had as many as 16 deer visitors all at the same time.

This deer, whom I call Lucy, gravitates to the longer lasting deer feed.  I'm not sure if she likes this kind better, or if she's learned she's not high enough in the pecking order to eat from the tastier brand.

The Purina Premium Deer Block is the more popular kind, and it lasts anywhere from two days to a week, depending on the conditions.   With this current deep freeze, this brand has been lasting no more than three days.

Sometimes the deer really attack the feed block, pulling off large chunks of it with each bite, which is another signal of their voracious appetites in the winter.

As this deer stands up from eating, it catches sight of me at the window with my camera.  That doesn't stop it from licking its chops after its tasty meal.

After a while, the deer get their fill and begin to meander off to their next stop on the circuit.  Sometimes they return during the night for more feed.  At times Gracie will emit a low growl during the night, and I've flicked on my floodlight.  Looking out the window, I've found my whole little herd there eating in the moonlight.

As I begin to put away my camera gear, I glance out the window another time.  It looks like the deer aren't the only ones who are cold and hungry and needing extra sustenance to get through the winter.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Deep Freeze

We've been in a deep freeze this past week.  And it will continue into next.  I don't ever recall experiencing temperatures as low as 15 to 20 degrees below zero, but that is what the weather service registered a few days ago.  Of course, those frigid temps resulted in Grand Traverse Bay freezing over for the second year in a row.  The last time we've had back-to-back years of frozen bay was 21 years ago, in the winters of 1993-1994.

I had an appointment in Traverse City so I decided to pack my camera gear and see for myself what the frozen bay looked like.  Taking pictures in the extreme cold presents some challenges as condensation can form on the camera and lens when it goes from a warm place inside a car to the frigid outdoors.  I tried to make the camera as comfortable as I could by keeping my window down to better equalize the inside and outside temperatures.  People probably thought I was nuts driving around with my windows down in sub-zero temperatures.  This particular day was truly gray with little contrast evident between the sky and snow.  The view across the bay was surreal, like what I'd imagine a moonscape to look like.  I can almost see Neil Armstrong waddling across the frozen tundra in his spacesuit.

The day was not only cold and gray, it was moody too.  When I went into my appointment, it was gray and cloudy.  But when I came out, the sky had turned a brilliant blue and was dotted with white puffy clouds.  Because the bay is considered frozen when the ice mass reaches Power Island, I decided to take a drive out on Old Mission Peninsula via Peninsula Drive to photograph the ice field up to Power Island, which is just south of Bowers Harbor.  Almost immediately after driving out on this other peninsula, however, nature's mood shifted and the skies grayed over.

The closer I got to Power Island, the worse the conditions became. Whether it was low-hanging clouds, fog, or snow, the large island was getting more and more occluded from view.  And this island is not just a dot in the bay; it's over 200 acres in size with over three miles of waterfront shoreline.

As I pulled even with the island, it was barely visible.  I took one final shot and headed back to Traverse City and then home to Northport via M-22 on the Leelanau Peninsula.

As I rounded the corner into the village of Omena, the weather's mood changed again, and blue sky appeared above frozen Omena Bay.

But the reprieve from gray skies didn't last long so I headed for Northport.

Driving through town, I noticed the Mill Pond had frozen over and was pristine with the newly fallen snow.

At the beach, the ice sheet extended across Northport Bay as far as I could see.

Wanting a higher vantage point, I went to the top of Braman Hill, where I'd seen only open water on January 31.  But today, ice completely filled the bay and surrounded Northport Point.

On my last stop before home, I could see the Bight was also completely frozen and snow covered.  I was struck by the fickleness of the day's weather moods, and its raw beauty.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Cult of Sunset Worshippers

It starts about a half hour before sunset.  Droves of cars pour into Christmas Cove beach and jockey for the best viewing position.  During high summer, hardly a parking spot remains and first comers get the best picks.  Some folks stay in their cars to watch nature's spectacle, while others spread blankets on the beach.  In the winter months, sunset is a totally different situation.  Christmas Cove is blocked off so people can't drive down the steep path to the beach.  But, more significantly, with snow and clouds predominating the weather scene, there are fewer visible sunsets.  This past week we had a couple sunny days and I headed out to catch a sunset on one of them.

As I headed towards the beach, I noticed how the light cast a golden glow on everything, including this orchard.  No wonder the thirty minutes before and after sunrise and sunset are known as the Golden Hour.

I chose Peterson Park and the nearby N. Foxview Drive as my vantage points.  Thinking I'd probably be alone, I was surprised when one truck and then another drove into the park.  The people from one truck got out of their vehicle and played with their golden retriever while awaiting the sunset.  The other folks remained warm inside the second truck.

I could already tell the sunset was going to be lovely and enhanced by a narrow bank of clouds that wouldn't occlude the view.

When the sun sinks into the water, or behind North Manitou Island, as in this case, some folks think the show is over and begin to leave. 

This night, in contrast, all three viewers stayed to continue watching.  Experienced sunset worshippers know that the afterglow is often as radiant as the sunset itself.

And this night was no different.   As the peachy glow from the sunset...

...shimmered into a rosy blush over Fox Island, the two trucks fired up their engines and headed out.

I finally left too, but enjoyed the last glimmers of sunset splendor the whole way home.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Week of Real Winter

What a difference a week makes!  We've had cold temperatures and several inches of new snow.  Both Lake Michigan and the Bight have experienced greater icing.  And the new snowfall has given the orchards and vistas a pristine look of real winter.