Thursday, May 28, 2020
I got the first Audubon email alert late Monday afternoon that they were at Logan’s Landing, but I wasn’t able to leave at that time. Then Tuesday morning, I got a second alert that they were still there. I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity so I headed out.
If I hadn’t noticed the long bills right away, I would have thought it was a group of swans. But they were pelicans! American White Pelicans. Here in Michigan! Now I’d seen pelicans before, brown ones, when I’d visited Florida, but never in my home state.
As they began to untangle themselves from each other, I noticed most had a big bump on their top beak. Pelicans grow this fibrous keel during breeding season and once the birds have mated and laid their eggs, the keel is shed.
As I’ve seen in other pelicans, they have a long bill with a huge pouch in the lower half. The pelican will fish with its bill, which can hold three gallons of water. After the fish have been caught, the bill is pointed downward, allowing the water to drain, and then the bill is raised and the bird swallows.
The American White Pelican is one of our largest birds, weighing up to 30 pounds. Its wingspan ranges between eight and ten feet.
These birds are so striking in their appearance, with their beautiful white plumage, light-colored eyes surrounded by yellow, and yellow-orange bills. Like all birds, they spent a lot of time preening themselves to keep their feathers in good flying shape.
But my biggest question remained, why were they here in Traverse City? The migration map shows them traveling as far east as the western shore of Lake Michigan. The Sightings Map, however, showed there’d been sightings all along our Lake Michigan coastline.
Perhaps gale winds over Lake Michigan blew them out of their normal migratory range. Regardless of why they were here, it was a wonderful experience to see and photograph these White Pelicans. I felt lucky too, especially after receiving another Audubon alert at 9:45 a.m. that the pelicans had lifted off, grabbed some thermals, and were off to their next destination.
Thursday, May 21, 2020
I stepped outside Saturday to get the mail and immediately noticed something different. There was green all around! The trees had leaves! Some trees were fairly full while others had tiny leaves just opening. Gracie and I headed out later that afternoon to check out the blooms and found plenty of trees and flowers were blossoming. Spring’s beauty continued its arrival.
Thursday, May 14, 2020
The spring migration of birds is in full swing. My local Audubon bird alert has been hopping with news of what birds are passing through on their way to their summer homes. Lots of shorebirds and warblers have been spotted by these bird-watching faithfuls. I decided to head to the countryside to see what I might find also.
As I drove along, I spotted a Yellowlegs perched at the edge of a low lying field that had been flooded from recent rains. These sandpipers are named for their distinctive long, spindly yellow legs.
The bird waded into the water, and I wondered whether it was a Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs. I couldn’t tell, however, with no other birds to compare it with. Yellowlegs typically breed in the summer all the way across Canada from Alaska to Newfoundland. Still has a long way to go.
I was hoping to see the Yellowlegs pull some insects out of the air with that long bill. Or some crustaceans from the water. But it just stood there. Maybe I was too close, making the Yellowlegs wary. I was suddenly distracted, however, by another, familiar bird sound.
I could hear the loud, trumpeting call of Sandhill Cranes! I know they can be heard from a long distance, but this sounded nearby. Indeed, I turned my car around and spotted the cranes on a far hillside surrounded by several cornfields.
Most of the cranes stayed with the group, but a few had wandered off. I caught this one alone in a field, backlit by the waning sunlight.
Another was already feasting in a cornfield. I was a bit far for close-up shots, so I decided to head home.
As I flipped the car around, I saw the Yellowlegs again, this time with a nice reflection. I always feel grateful to see birds and wildlife on my travels to the countryside, this time birds partaking in the spring migration. Safe travels, birdies!
Thursday, May 7, 2020
The sunny skies over the weekend beckoned me to the Great Outdoors. Daffodils and hyacinths were in full bloom, along with a few early tulips. Their bright colors quickly chased any coronavirus blues I might have been feeling from being stuck indoors. At the Historic Barns park, beds of daffodils brought out people sitting in lawn chairs and visiting each other from appropriate social distances. You know, this pandemic is challenging many people to their cores, but I also see many folks making the best of things. Enjoy the flowers!