Thursday, November 29, 2018
As the temperatures drop and snow arrives, my thoughts have turned to when I’ll see my first Snowy Owl of the winter. I’ve gotten Audubon alerts that have already reported three sightings, one in Northport and the other two in Traverse City. I’ve even driven through the industrial park twice where I’ve seen Snowies in past years.
Snowy Owls often don’t pick the most photogenic spots to perch. I photographed this Snowy last December when it chose this electrical box to land on so it could watch the nearby field for its favorite prey, mice and voles.
Another favorite roost for the Snowy Owl in this park was this huge mound of dirty snow deposited by snow plowers right behind the electrical box. It had the height to make a good vantage point for the owls.
But that whole corner has changed this year. The electrical boxes are still there, but a new building complex now occupies the whole corner and beyond.
In another area of the park popular with Snowy Owls, a second large building complex has been built. As the natural owl habitats have changed, I wonder where the Snowies will go to hunt. This year out in the countryside, I found farmers had rotated their crops away from corn and I saw fewer Sandhill Cranes in the same areas where I’d abundantly seen them in the past. Will the same thing happen with Snowy Owls?
Still, there are many undeveloped parts of the park where dirt piles and open fields could provide fruitful habitats for hunting Snowy Owls. I’ll just have to work a little harder to find them.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the countless number of light poles in the park, another favorite Snowy Owl roost. I may be looking up more this season to spot my photography subjects than in past years. One thing is sure. My excitement to see these magnificent birds is reaching fever pitch.
Thursday, November 22, 2018
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day celebrating the blessings you are thankful for. One thing I'm grateful for is the temporary housing I've been in since my condo sold in August, and my new house was being built. With my new home almost ready for occupancy, and I look back on these four months, it has been fun exploring this new area of town, which is where I discovered these beautiful red barns. Besides their gorgeous color, most have beautiful stonework at their bases.
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Thursday, November 1, 2018
An Audubon member put out an email alert that she’d seen 50 Sandhill Cranes in a location I’d not visited before. When I went there, I found beautiful farmland and abundant fall color, but I'd missed seeing the cranes.
I returned to another area where I’ve seen cranes in large numbers the past couple years. Right away I saw this pair walking along a hillside under dark and threatening skies. I was hopeful there’d be more, but the rains came and ended my photoshoot.
The two crane locations aren’t that far from each other, and I’ve visited both several times over the past two weeks with no luck in sighting cranes. Last Saturday, I went out again, optimistic that my luck would turn. I headed down a dirt road where there are fields of corn dregs, one of the habitats that attract cranes. Up ahead, a deer crossed in front of me and headed up a hill into a golden wood. When I got closer, I could see there were three of them, a doe and her two fawns.
I continued to photograph them and noticed the fawns had lost their spots and the deer coloring had changed from the reddish-brown hues of summer to the grayish-brown coloring of winter months. The nearest fawn had his nose in the air, probably smelling Gracie in the car, and was stomping the ground with its front foot, a signal indicating danger. The deer appeared ready to bolt, so I moved on in search of cranes.
I drove miles through farm county past many empty, plowed cornfields. Just as I was about to call it quits, I spied two cranes in a field to my right. I pulled ahead and turned around so I could better photograph them. I got off only one shot before they took to the air. The second crane lagged far behind her mate.
Photographing birds in flight is both exciting and challenging. Watching these magnificent Sandies cross the sky with their heavy wing beats and bugling calls is an amazing experience. It’s challenging also to attempt to pan the camera and keep them in camera’s eye view.
The cranes were flying quite low and appeared to be in somewhat of a descent, so I wondered if they were going to land nearby. They were getting out of my range, however, so I wasn’t going to see them float to the ground with their long, spindly legs extended downward.
I was right that the cranes hadn’t gone far, landing in a nearby field. They were pretty far away from my camera’s range, but I did get a shot of them heading towards a nearby woods. The leading crane seemed to be striding fast for the wooded cover, while the second one was content to take its time to forage for food. I’m still hoping to see a large migratory flock, but it's great fun watching these wonderful critters, even when they’re are only two of them.