Thursday, August 29, 2019


Last week two friends and I took a day trip to Mackinaw City.  We planned to shop at Mackinaw Crossings and have a whitefish lunch at Darrows.  When we’d finished those activities, our focus turned to The Bridge.

My first sighting of Mighty Mac always takes my breath away.  It is such a magnificent structure!  As an eleven-year-old child, I remember taking a ferry ride with my family in 1957 across The Straits as the bridge was being built. 

One of my friends was from Mississippi and had never been across The Mackinac Bridge.  I hoped to change that on our trip.  As we began the crossing, clouds were heavy in the sky, but there was no rain in the forecast.  I explained that Lake Huron was on our right and Lake Michigan on our left.  I said the Straits area is where the two Great Lakes merged.

As we neared the end of our crossing, my friend asked if we’d be in the Upper Peninsula when we left The Bridge and I said we would.  We drove for a while along Highway 2, which borders the northernmost end of Lake Michigan.  We stopped at a lookout so we could get a view of the bridge from the U.P.

We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the U.P., so we headed south back across the bridge.  I handed my iPhone X to my friend and asked her to document our crossing.  Here we were driving on the gridded surface and were approaching the first tower.  I love this image because it shows the second tower through the lower opening of the first tower!

Here we are at the center of the bridge approaching the second tower.  I cannot help but marvel at the engineering that went into building this structure, especially how the huge main cables anchor the suspender cables to the towers and the deck.

I wanted to take a few more pictures, so we pulled into the Michilimackinac State Park.   Here is another view of Mighty Mac.  I find it interesting that the bridge, straits, and island are all spelled with the “ac” spelling, while the city retains the “aw” spelling.  All are pronounced Mackinaw!

This image is of the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1889.  It is a guiding beacon that helps passing ships navigate through the treacherous waters of the Straits of Mackinac.  Not for the faint of heart, physically fit people can climb the 51 narrow steps and an 11-rung, eight-foot ladder through a tight hatchway to the top.  What a view!

I wasn’t surprised to see Mackinac Island off to my right but I was amazed to be able to pick out The Grand Hotel so clearly.

We had a pleasant day, but we were all tired and ready for the drive home.  Too bad we couldn't take a route as eagles fly...or gulls, in this case.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


It had rained throughout the afternoon, but the skies had cleared so Gracie and I set out to see what critters might be enjoying the cooler, less humid temperatures.

 As I rounded a bend to the first farmland pond, I immediately saw a striking Great Blue Heron standing at water’s edge.  It was the first one I’d seen this summer.

I was creeping along at a snail’s pace, but the GBH turned in my direction and spotted me.  It was not happy with my presence and scurried off to the other end of the pond, heavily laden with cattails and other vegetation.  I moved on.

I turned the next corner and saw three cranes herky-jerkying their way through a field of cut hay.  Two parents were book-ending the juvenile in the center.  Since they were so close to the farm where I’d seen two cranes pair-bonding in the spring, I wondered if this was the same family.

The sun was sinking lower in the sky, and it turned this field of corn and cut hay to a glorious gold.

Driving on, I spied these twin fawns grazing at the edge of another cornfield.  Ever vigilant, one saw me right away, and the others had perked its ears in alert.  I wondered where their mother was.

I turned around and was heading back to catch the other side of the road when I immediately flushed four cranes from the edge of yet another cornfield.  They were flying into the sun, so I didn’t get more than silhouettes of them.  Perhaps these four were the family with two juveniles that I’d seen last week.

With the sunset now 45-minutes earlier, I was losing light fast but decided to swing past the pond one last time to see if the Great Blue had come out of hiding, and it had.  Such a lovely bird!  It didn’t seem as skittish as before, maybe because the light was lower and it couldn’t see me as well.

The GBH busied itself with fishing in the marsh.  I loved that I got its reflection in the water.  It paid no attention to me as I clicked away, taking 450 pictures in all.  Gracie was watching intently out the window too, not making a sound.

I detected movement to my left and saw another bird fly into the reeds.  I didn’t know what it was from the tail end.

When it turned towards me, I still couldn’t identify it.  At home, I scoured my bird apps and thought it might be a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron.  But they are quite rare in this area, so I doubted my tentative identification.  I checked with an Audubon Club friend, and he confirmed the bird ID with a “WOW!”

The juvenile heron wasn’t doing much so I returned to the GBH, who had continued to fish.  It opened its mouth, but I couldn’t tell what it had gotten. 

As the Great Blue crouched low and resumed its wading deeper into the marshy growth, I couldn’t help but be amazed at what I’d seen this Sunday evening.


Thursday, August 15, 2019


The conditions are nearly perfect.

 There are still a few golden fields of hay yet to be cut.

But most of the hay has been harvested by now and is ready to be baled.

The cornfields appear to be mature too and also ready for cutting.  Fields left with cut hay and dregs of corn stalks will bring in what I’ve been waiting for all summer.

CRANES!  I spotted these first cranes of the summer in this meadow next to a cornfield.  Because the two cranes on the ends were in sentinel pose, I figured the two in the middle were juveniles.

 As I got a closer look, I could tell the two middle birds were definitely juveniles because both lacked the red caps common to adults.  Their eyes were also black versus the red color of adults.  Generally, cranes lay two buff or olive eggs in a ground nest built near water.  I’d seen juveniles many times before, but I’d never seen two juveniles survive and be with both parents.

The whole time I was taking pictures, the adult crane on the left kept watch.  It hardly moved a muscle and appeared rooted in its spot, even when Gracie hung out the window to see what was there.

After a while, the adult on the right joined the two juveniles in foraging for food.  They probe with their bills for grains, seeds, and insects.

Then, surprisingly, while the adult continued to peck in the ground, one of the juveniles took over the watch duty, or so it seemed.  I wondered whether the two adults were the ones I saw early last spring doing a pair-bonding dance.  There is no way to know that for sure, but it’s wonderful to have some cranes back in the area to photograph and enjoy.

Thursday, August 8, 2019


Along M-204, which connects the two sides of the Leelanau Peninsula, there is a sight so beautiful that it moves drivers to stop, look, and even take pictures.  I'd visited the site a few years ago, but I had a new reason this summer to spend some time there.

A sunflower farm just outside Suttons Bay had fields of these golden beauties that stretched for as far as your eyes could reach. 

I was torn whether to take pictures of the whole scene or devote my time to photographing single sunflowers.  They each seemed to have a different personality with the way they titled towards the sun or drooped downwardly.

The contrast between the intricate centers and the delicate petals was stunning.  I wondered where the bees were because, in the past, I'd seen lots of them.

But the beauty of the sunflowers wasn't my only reason for being there on this day.  Three years ago, almost to the day, my friend Barbara had her two granddaughters up for a summer visit.  Erin (left) and Casey (middle) were in middle school, and both had an interest in photography.  We spent the afternoon taking pictures all around Northport of what "Fudgies" do when they visit.

But now, Casey is going into her last year of high school, and she asked me to take her senior pictures.  Oh my, how she's grown up in those three years!  We photographed her at the Northport marina, in the village by the flower boxes, in a cherry orchard, and ended up among the sunflowers.

Casey was as lovely and photogenic as the flowers themselves.  Her beautiful smile brightened each of the nearly 400 pictures I shot.  She's in the process of visiting and choosing her college now, and I'm certain she'll be successful wherever she ends up.  (Go, Western!)

As we wandered the field thick with blossoms, I couldn't help but feel the passage of time since first meeting Casey.

Life moves along so fast it's easy to miss important moments unless one stays mindful to the whole process.

Thursday, August 1, 2019


I’d been over the Robbins Bridge a few times when the Sabin Dam was first being dismantled, but I hadn’t been back in a while.

With Airport Road so clogged with traffic this summer, I’ve begun taking Hammond to Keystone to Cass to get to the other side of town.  I had my camera with me, so on one of those trips, I decided to stop in the parking lot just above the Robbins Bridge and take some pictures.

As part of the Boardman River Dams Ecosystem Restoration Project, three dams were set to be removed.  In 2012 the Brown Dam was removed; in 2017, the Boardman Dam was removed.  In the fall of 2018, the Sabin Dam and Powerhouse were removed.  The purpose of the project was to find the natural river bottom and divert the Boardman back to its original course.

With that process completed, fish passage would be restored to Grand Traverse Bay.  Additionally, there would be reestablished wetlands as well as native plant areas.  Wood and sediment would also be able to move freely through the river system.  The new river will also be able to better handle the high water that has come with climate change.  It will take three to five years for the whole ecosystem to return to life.

As I watched the new river flowing under and beyond the bridge, I was fascinated by the whole project, which was completed through a partnership with the Army Corp of Engineers and the Grand Traverse Band.  From my perspective, I saw that the river had some fast-flowing rapids and wondered if kayakers were already traveling the new river.

In researching this topic, one part that especially interested me was an entry in the Grand Traverse Journal that told the story of Jack Robbins, who owned a farm in the Boardman Valley on Cass Road.   The whole river restoration effort was aided by a historical map that Robbins had tucked away in his farmhouse.  Robbins shared the map with the Army Corps of Engineers, and it was instrumental in helping them return the river to its original channel and restore the banks.  Surely, that is why this bridge has been named the Robbins Bridge.

I stood at the far end of the bridge and watched the river flow its historic, natural channel after being impounded for over a hundred years.  It was an amazing scene to watch, but the story doesn’t end here.

In the past, any mucky sediment was held back and managed by the dam.  Now, with the river flowing freely, larger amounts of sediment can travel down the river, especially in this early phase of the restoration.  One such sediment disbursement contributed to the formation of a delta at the South end of Boardman Lake.  At first, this caused some concern, but the rush of sediment is expected to settle down and create a new wetland complex.  This interface between the river and the lake over time will create new fish and wildlife habitats.

Already, there have been sightings of a Snowy Egret, a Great Blue Heron, and some Green Herons at the new Boardman Lake Delta.  I missed seeing and photographing those beauties, but the morning I went, I got to see a turtle and a couple of mallards.  I'm sure I will see more species in the future.