Saturday, February 25, 2017


It was snowing hard, but I had an idea for my blog that I wanted to go through with, despite the weather.  Looking back, I didn't get the quality of images I was hoping for, but at least I can truthfully blame it on the weather.

Oleson's Buffalo Farm sits on both sides of Kyselka Road off U.S. 31.  It's an idyllic setting, hilly and picturesque, but on this morning, the farm was so obscured by the heavy snowfall that the image looked black and white.

The buffalo were congregated in clumps all over the hillsides.  Actually, calling these animals buffalo is a misnomer because they are really American Bison.  True buffalo are only found in Africa and Asia.

The Oleson herd is about 250-350 strong.  These critters are known for their massive heads and large shoulder humps.  They also have thick, shaggy coats which keep them warm on winter days, like this one.  They have long, unkempt "hipster" beards too.

While most of the bison I saw were adults, there were a few calves in the herd.  They still had some of the reddish-orange hair they are born with.  I had parked on a hill so I was above the high fence that surrounded the herd's grazing grounds.  This one came almost to the fence to greet me.  Probably just a curious youngster.

I wanted to get a close-up of the calf's face, but the snowy conditions made it hard to capture the detail I was hoping for.  It was still fun to see one so close.

I think of bison as slow, lumbering animals, but I got a real thrill when these two bulls came running full tilt down the hillside.  They were really moving!  I hope to come back on another day when the weather is clearer so I can get better close-ups of America's National Mammal.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


It's been a gorgeous few days with lots of sunshine, blue skies, and temperatures reaching near fifty degrees.  It was a great day for a road trip and I decided it was time to explore that other peninsula:  Old Mission.

Right away I noticed many similarities between Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas.  They both have lots of hills that open up to beautiful water vistas.  There also are lots of orchards, vineyards, and several new hops farms.

A friend told me there were painted barns on the peninsula so I plugged that into an internet search engine and found that there was actually a tour of barns that had quilt patterns painted on them.  While I wasn't going to take the formal Quilt Tour on this first exploratory trip, I decided to keep an eye out for them.  I almost immediately saw this one, which had a Halloween theme with a flying witch in the center and pumpkins at each corner.

This barn had a stunning North Star pattern, a traditional design seen on many quilts.

While it wasn't a quilt pattern, I was struck by the rainbow design on this metal-roofed barn.  I wondered if it was painted on or the metal came in vari-colored strips.

When I drew even with Power Island, I was struck by how little ice and snow dotted the shoreline.  In a more traditional winter, Grand Traverse Bay is considered frozen over when the ice reaches Power Island.  Hard to imagine that happening on this lovely, spring-like day.

Continuing on, I saw another traditional star pattern on this weathered, yellowish barn, the first one that wasn't red.

This barn displays a Celtic Cross, which I imagine honors the family's ancestry.

I reached the endpoint of my trip when I arrived at Old Mission Lighthouse.  The park was vibrant with people exploring and walking their dogs.  This light reminded me of Grand Traverse Lighthouse in style.  Both have a homey design with the light rising from the roof as a cupola.

On my return trip to Traverse City, I noticed yet another beautiful barn.  It seemed like for the barns I saw on my Old Mission jaunt, all but one were red.  I wondered if there was some kind of zoning requirement that made that happen.  While there are red barns on the Leelanau, red barns aren't in the majority on that peninsula.

Friday, February 10, 2017


I heard them before I saw them.  Some kind of commotion was going on at my feeders and I came to the sliders to see just what was going on.

Ugh, I thought, when I saw that the new visitors to my feeders were Starlings.

The European Starling is actually a beautiful bird, striking with its purple and green iridescent plumage and its long, yellow pointed bill.

While Starlings dazzle with their appearance, they are more known for their boisterous, aggressive, even "piggy" behavior.  

They travel in large numbers and I could see them congregating en masse in the treetops at the edge of my yard.  They'd take turn fluttering down to my feeders.

They were a blur of wings as they jockeyed for position at my two feeders.

I felt sorry for my regulars, like this Finch, who hid in the nearby Rose of Sharon bush awaiting their turns.  The only time they had a chance to eat was when Gracie charged the Starlings at the window and scared them away from the feeders for brief time.  I don't think she liked their constant movement and chatter.

At the end of the day, they had completely cleaned out my feeders.  I waited a day to refill them, hoping to deter the Starlings from a repeat performance.

But while I was photographing the spectacle of Starlings, I caught sight of another bird feasting on leftover berries high in a nearby tree.  Its red-orange breast caught my attention.  Could it be?

Ah yes, it was a robin!  At first I thought it might be an early returner from winter migration, but then I read that there is a trend that more robins are sticking around in winter, or returning earlier, due to urban landscaping, warming winter temperatures, and reduced snow cover.  Regardless, the robin was a welcome sight in contrast to the Starling interlopers.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Winter Up Close

We've had lots of snow over the past week, making for some beautiful landscapes.  This week I focused on viewing these in close-up mode.