Friday, July 28, 2017


Some blog topics just present themselves to me.  A fox runs across the road leading me to her kits.  Twin fawns appear outside my study window.  Others I have to work for.  But when I lived in Northport, I learned over time where various wildlife habitats were so I could seek out topics.

When I first saw this bird from a distance, I thought it was a cardinal.  Same basic shape.  Crested head.  But the mask seemed somehow wrong.

When I got home, I went to my bird apps.  I looked at the cardinal description and then at birds similar to cardinals.  I learned that this was a Cedar Waxwing.  The mask was the identifier.  On the Cardinal, the mask covers the eye and the chin.  On the Cedar Waxwing, the mask is like a bandit’s mask, Lone Ranger style.

The Cedar Waxwing's coloring is different too, although the main body color is similar to the female Cardinal.  The Waxwing’s underbody is a buff or yellow color.  The tail is yellow-tipped.

I’ve lived in Traverse City for seven months now and I’m just beginning to compile a few locations where I can count on finding wildlife habitats.  I photographed the Sandhill Cranes, Great Blue Heron, and this Cedar Waxwing from one of those locations.  That’s making my photography and blog work more fun and interesting.  And probably for you too.

Mike Terrell, Record-Eagle outdoor columnist, said in a recent column, “Up north can be like a tug on the soul.  It calls to them, and it’s the anticipation of getting away to their favorite getaway spot that keeps them going.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Friday, July 21, 2017


I spent the better part of two evenings returning to the habitat I've been exploring and was delighted to find a Great Blue Heron on both occasions.

This large, striking bird held its watchful pose as I began taking pictures in its marshy environs.

The bird slowly edged its way across a log in the water.  I was using my car as a blind to avoid scaring the heron off, but battled the low sun reflecting off my windshield.

Here I continued to struggle with windshield reflection, but couldn't resist the pose of the Great Blue in this image.  I thought it was going to take to the air, but instead it just gave me a teaser.  Or maybe it was just putting out its wings to balance itself as it moved along the narrow log.

It was fun capturing the heron from various angles.  Each one gave me a different perspective on the bird's personality.  Here, the graceful Great Blue looks a bit goofy.

And here the slanted eyes and lethal-looking beak give the heron a more sinister appearance.

Later on, the Great Blue had moved to a pond near a farmer's field that had been mostly inhabited by geese. 

I loved how the heron was reflected in the pond's water as it slowly made its way to the other side.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Last spring I went with the local Audubon Club to an area rich with migrating birds.  There were hundreds of Sandhill Cranes and several other species I'd not seen before.  I decided to revisit the area on a beautiful summer evening to see how it'd changed.

Right away, I saw three cranes in the same location as last spring.  I was puzzled, however, by why there were three of them.  Usually, cranes are in pairs.

Then I got it.  It was a juvenile sandhill crane.  Its red crown had yet to develop, making it appear almost bald.

I found three more cranes in a nearby green field, and another juvenile trailed behind its parents.

The pond where I'd found many migrating birds had filled in with reeds and cattails.  Red-winged Blackbirds were abundant and found perched from the highest vantage points.

But these juvenile barn swallows were the catch of the evening.  I'd not seen this breed before.

These little beauties seemed to know how to pose for the camera.

It wasn't just the birds that made for the lovely evening; it was the whole beautiful, rolling countryside.

As I headed home, the clouds parted just a bit to let in a couple streaks of the setting sun.  Perfect!

Friday, July 7, 2017


On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the Cherry Festival hosted an air show featuring the United States Air Force Thunderbirds.  The name Thunderbirds was influenced by the strong Native American culture and folklore of the American southwest.

In mythology, a thunderbird is a supernatural being of power and strength.  One is emblazoned on the underside of each plane.

The flying team is aptly named because when they were in the air you felt their power as they thundered overhead.

Flying in tight formation, they begin their tilt, tipping their left wing downward.

Maintaining their tight formation, they tilt further until that are flying perpendicular to the ground, one wing pointing straight up, the other straight down.

They keep the roll going until they are nearly upside down.

And then you get the big show.  They continue the roll until they are flying completely upside down, making their thunderbird symbols completely visible.

Upright again, they roar back with their jet vapor trails obscuring portions of their planes.

And suddenly, there are six, all flying in tight formation.

And they continue in tight formation until they are completely flying upside down too.  Imagine.  Six of them instead of four.

As they did with four jets, they broadcast their flying Thunderbirds on six underbellies.  It was quite the show.  I remember as a kid singing the Air Force song:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

As I was writing this, I wondered why I'd sing such a song.  But I did a little googling and discovered this song originally belonged to the Army Air Corps.  And that's the branch that was the precursor to the Air Force.  It's also where my father served in during WW2.  No wonder it was sung in our household.