Thursday, August 30, 2018
One of the loveliest scenes on Grand Traverse Bay is that of sailboats enjoying the water and winds. Wednesday evenings are a particularly good time to watch sailboats as the Grand Traverse Yacht Club hosts two classes of sailing races then.
The first race is the One Design Division. All the sailboats are in the Melges 24 Fleet. According to the GTYC website, there are 14 boats in this club fleet.
Melges 24 all have the same basic design and are known for being competitive and easy to sail. At 24 feet in length, this high-performance boat has been in both the America's Cup and the Olympics. On this evening, I counted eight sailors on this particular boat.
The other race of the evening involves differently designed boats but all using Spinnaker sails. Spinnakers are those billowing front sails designed for sailing off the wind.
Spinnakers come in all different colors and make for a beautiful sight on the bay, both for casual onlookers and for photographers alike.
Boats in this race have a variety of lengths. This Melges 24 is on the small end, and there are sailboats up to 40 feet in length.
This sailboat, with its bright blue sail, is flying, a term used to describe when the sail is ballooning out in front trying to catch every bit of wind possible.
The owner of this sailboat, also a Melges 24, must be a Star Wars fan, as the boat is named Padawan, the term used for a Jedi apprentice. Its Spinnaker is named Black Death, another Star Wars- related term.
Thursday, August 23, 2018
I got an e-bird alert from another Audubon member that a marshy area north of Elk Rapids had abundant birding potential. With my teaching semester over, I decided to check it out, even though it was about a forty minute drive.
Right away I could see the large marsh was teeming with birding opportunities. Movement was evident among the grasses, and there was activity on the water too. I pulled over to get a closer look.
Not far from my car, I spotted a beautiful Green Heron. This swamp looked like the perfect area for the heron to be foraging frogs, fish, tadpoles, crayfish, water bugs, and mice.
As I panned to the right, I saw a Wood Duck standing on a log. I caught it as it turned to watch me, but it quickly lost interest in my presence and went back to looking for its next meal.
Across the marsh, I saw a blur of white, and my breath caught. I wasn’t close enough to get a really sharp shot but was still excited to see a beautiful Great Egret. It was a first for me, and I just watched it through my binoculars. It was pretty far north for this species, so I felt lucky to see it.
And just like that, the Great Egret took to the air, its deep, steady wing beats carrying the bird’s nearly six-foot body effortlessly across the marsh.
The marsh continued across the road, but it was mostly reeds and cattails vs. a lake of swamp water.
Almost immediately, I spotted a Great Blue Heron fishing among the reeds. The bird’s back faced me, but it still caught sight of me with that piercing yellow eye.
The large bird was clearly unhappy with my presence and quickly rose vertically, carried upward by wings which have a span of over six feet.
And as fast as the Great Blue came into my sight, it was gone. As an ethical photographer, I hate to disturb critters from their natural homes. Now that I know that both sides of the road are viable bird habitats, I'll be more cautious the next time I come.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Last week when I visited farm county, I saw the effects of our hot, dry summer. At the end of the evening, I saw three sandhill cranes take to the sky. When I went back this week, I was hoping to find them again and photograph them. Instead, I found...
A beautiful red barn and outbuildings at the edge of a cornfield.
A striking stand of White Birch trees.
A spotted fawn venturing deep into a field of some kind of crop, ears standing at alert.
Another fawn, or perhaps the first fawn's mother.
Two beautiful horses grazing in a field.
A split-rail fence lined with vibrant trumpet honeysuckle vines.
A brilliant sun setting below a bank of electrical wires.
Thursday, August 9, 2018
I hadn't been out to farm country since the end of June. Even though the skies portended a coming storm, I headed out anyway.
I was surprised how verdant everything looked.
The contrast between the green crops and the sandy-colored stands of grain was striking.
I came across one of my favorite farm country scenes, fields of hay bales. Skies were becoming more threatening as I drove.
Then I came into an area where there were lots of ponds. I was shocked at how dry they were and the lack of waterfowl in them. Only a few geese were inhabiting this one, which was full of swimming critters last summer.
As I rounded the corner and pulled over to one of the largest ponds, I saw it too had low water levels and was choked with algae. Last summer I had photographed a beautiful Great Blue Heron doing a balancing act across a fallen branch.
I ended my drive at Hency Marsh, which is typically lush with vegetation and water pathways. What I found was more dryness and only a couple narrow streams of water on the edges. It was stunning to see the effects the hot, dry summer was having on area waterfowl habitats. I couldn't wait for the approaching storm to strike, and, hopefully, begin to replenish some of these natural environments.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
I was sitting on the back deck enjoying an evening without high temperatures and the need for air conditioning. It felt wonderful.
I heard it before I saw it and immediately went inside to grab my camera. I stepped off my deck and caught sight of a hot air balloon heading my way over the rooftops.
It was coming close to the trees in my front yard, so I headed out there to get a close-up.
I'm not sure how the steering works in balloons, but just as I got to the front yard, it veered off to the south.
I could see the balloon had advertising on it for 9&10 news on one side.
I decided to try following it through my neighborhood. It was always just above the tree line.
It was getting almost out of my camera's reach as I wandered among the evergreens trying to maintain contact.
As I reached the end of my neighboorhood, the balloon was finally high above the last of the homes. On my walk back to my condo, I thought about what a pleasant surprise this had been.