Thursday, March 31, 2022



We got spoiled with those glorious days of sun and temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s a few weeks ago.  Except for the plowed piles, most of the snow had melted.  People began walking the streets and even a few bike riders ventured out.  And then, Old Man Winter returned.  Hopefully, for a final visit. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022



In an Audubon email alert, another local birder reported that she’d seen nine eagles at the Roadkill Cafe.  While the name made me laugh, she’d aptly named a field in farm country where the road commission dumps roadkill carcasses.  



While it’s sad to see such roadkill, mostly deer, the commission gets the dead critters off the road so other animals aren’t hit while feeding on the dead ones.  It also provides a good food source for opportunist animals trying to survive the cold winter months.

On the particular day I visited, I spotted two mature Bald Eagles in a tree watching the roadkill site just below them.  Over he last couple of years, I’ve seen a family of four eagles there on a regular basis.

A few trees over, I spotted another eagle, this one a juvenile, although the incoming eagle-in-flight was more interesting to watch at that moment. 


 And that’s where most of the action was on this particular day.  In the sky.  I spotted five eagles in all and most of them were soaring.  Some were headed to the roadkill site, while others were just gliding on whatever air masses were present that afternoon.


 One of the adult eagles was getting ready to take flight, and I focused my camera on it, hoping to catch some in-flight close-ups.


 As the eagle raised its enormous wings, I was struck by its beautiful white head and neck.  From my bird app iBird PRO, I learned that at one time, the word “bald” (balde) meant white—not hairless—referring to the white head and upper neck of the adult Bald Eagle.


  The eagle stretched out its wings as it took fully to the air.  Its enormous six to eight foot wingspan was evident. 

 As it cleared the tree line, the eagle looked down.  Was it aiming to feast on the latest roadkill, I wondered?

No, it didn’t seem that was it, as it turned back towards the tree where its mate still sat on a branch and watched.  Perhaps, it was beckoning the mate to join in on the air time.  Can you think of a better way to spend an afternoon?



Thursday, March 17, 2022



I’ve been known to take a little afternoon snooze, especially since my knee replacement surgery.  That was the case Sunday afternoon after losing an hour of sleep in the switch to Daylight Savings Time.  Ugh!   But when I woke up around 4 pm, I had an epiphany.  It wouldn’t get dark until 8 pm so I had plenty of time left for picture-taking! 

I quickly packed the camera bags, Gracie excitedly ran to the car, and we headed to the boonies.  The roads were still fairly snow-covered and drifted in spots, but there were also some slushy bare areas due to the temps being a bit warmer. 


 There wasn’t a lot of snow in the fields either.  Like in-town, I could see the ice underneath the thin snow layer, perfect conditions for this snowmobiler doing donuts.


 And beyond the snowmobiler in a stand of old maples, I spied a true harbinger of spring, maple syrup buckets!


 It was a beautiful farm country afternoon.  The Golden Hour approaching.  Corn stalks popping through the sparse snowfall on the rolling hillsides.  I never tire of scenes like this one.  Still, I was hoping to see some critters.


 Gracie spotted the first wild thing, as she hung out the car window.  Probably through smell.  As I snapped away, the possum moved along as fast as it could in the soft afternoon light.


 And up the road, I saw two swans sitting peacefully in a cornfield.  Not the first time, but weird, huh?  Okay, truth be told, I wasn’t out looking for possums or swans.  I was hoping to see whether any Sandhill Cranes had returned from their winter migration.  I know I was pushing it because the earliest I’d seen them was March 23, still ten days away. 


 I crossed M-113  into a new block and my heart lept!  Two Sandhill Cranes were feeding on the dregs in a corn field.  Of course, I didn’t know if they were “my” pair, but it was the earliest I’d ever seen cranes.

 The birds were filling their traditional roles.  One bird stood in ready position watching for any signs of threatening predators.  Luckily, a long photography lens and dog hanging out a car window didn’t constitute danger.


 The other crane went about greedily chomping on the corn dregs.  I imagine the birds were hungry after their migratory travel.  Must feel good to be home again.


 But for me, the season of crane-watching had begun.  Pair-bond dancing, mating, nesting, young birds were all ahead.  Oh happy day!

Thursday, March 10, 2022



The next time I went out to shoot, I headed to farm country, out near Kingsley.  It was again a very windy day, but I hadn’t considered the implications until I’d reached the boonies.


 While the roads were drivable, the winds had covered them completely with snow.  In spots, the drifting snow made the driving somewhat dicey.


 The winds continued to blow the snow off the natural drifts and plow-created snow piles.  I tried many different settings trying capture that movement.


 Despite the winds and snow-covered roads, it was, nonetheless, a beautiful day.  Sunshine and blue skies.  Picture perfect.


 Before leaving home for my photoshoot, I’d been thinking of heading to Old Mission to capture a sunset over water, but then I checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris website and saw the sun was still too far to the south for that. So Plan B was to head to farm country, where it looked like I was going to get a sunset, after all.  The Golden Hour had arrived.


 I watched the setting sun cast interesting shadow patterns across the open fields.


 This string of telephone poles stood out against the golden sky.  


 The sun dipped behind a stand of trees, making for a nice scene with these gently rolling, overlapping hilltops.


 As I was heading west, the wind continued to blow the snow across the roadway.


 I was hoping to get an uncluttered view of the sunset, which was fast approaching.  Not over water, of course, but maybe over an open field or empty hillside.


 I sped across M-37, and the road became even more snow-covered.  I found the open field I was seeking, but just missed seeing the sun actually set.  Still, the lovely red skies were stunning.  I got my sunset after all.




Thursday, March 3, 2022



I can’t quite express the excitement I felt as I headed out on my first photoshoot since my knee replacement surgery.  While the skies were bright, the winds were very strong, which could make for challenging photography.  I headed to the west side of Traverse City not exactly sure what I was going to see after my six-week layoff.


 I pulled into a neighborhood near where I’d lived while my current home was being built.  Almost immediately I spotted a heavily-barred female Snowy Owl sitting on a rooftop.  I drove on, readied my long lens equipment, and turned around for some shooting.


 The Snowy swiveled to check me out, her third eyelid, the translucent nictitating membrane, protecting it from the bright sunlight.  And perhaps shielding her cornea from any debris that was flying through the air in the high wind conditions.


 She turned to the side and I could see her feathers ruffling with wind.  She was a beauty and Gracie thought so too as she quietly watched the big bird from the car window.


 The Snowy turned back towards me and her uplifted face gave the appearance of a smile.  She appreciated the sunshine too.  We watched for a while longer and then headed over to the ballpark to see if we could spot another Snowy, which would be a rare occasion on the same day.


 I never would have spotted the Snowy on the ground if it hadn’t been for two cars of photographers pulled off to the roadside and taking pictures.  The guy ahead of me had a huge lens hanging out his window.  It was at least an 800mm and was dressed in a camouflage cover.   My 100-400mm felt puny next to his monster lens.


 The female Snowy was sitting in a hollow surrounded by swaying field grasses.  It had its own natural camouflage cover!  It was a challenge to focus on this beautiful critter with all the movement surrounding it.

It too had its third eyelid in place, protecting it from the wind, flying weeds, and sunlight.  Oh, how I longed for a peek of those yellow eyes!


 She finally opened her eyes without the membrane in place, but this was as good as it got.  By this time, we’d been out over two hours and I could feel my knee stiffening.  Gracie was also an hour past her feeding time and was getting antsy, jumping between the front and back seats and hanging out the window.  While she’d never barked at an owl, I imagined her doing that and decided it was time to call it a day.  And what luck we’d had with photographing two different Snowy Owls in one afternoon!