Wednesday, November 23, 2022



Whether out it the boonies or at my own deck feeders, I love photographing birds.


 My backyard birds have given me many pleasures, such as seeing this Chipping Sparrow parent feed its youngster.


 Or when this huge Pileated Woodpecker swooped onto my upside-down suet feeder.


 While healing from my recent knee replacement surgery, I read a new book, Slow Birding by Joan E. Strassmann, which gave me some new perspectives on birding as a hobby.


 Strassmann advocates taking a slower approach to birding.  Taking your time to really observe a species and appreciate the nuances of birds’ daily lives.  I’ve been pretty good at doing that while I photograph a favorite species, like my Sandhill Cranes.


 But I’m also guilty of doing what the author calls “motor birding,” where birders drive from one good birding spot to another, picking up a few birds here and there and moving on.  I’d done that last July when I photographed my first Indigo Bunting.  I was excited at finding this new bird for my life list, but I didn’t really learn a thing about this gorgeous species from my drive-thru photography.


 Besides defining her philosophy of Slow Birding, Strassmann describes 16 common backyard birds and supplies scientific studies (sometimes a bit tedious) that help us better understand these regulars.  One bird she focuses on is the American Robin.  And we all know robins love worms.


 But what I didn’t know was that worms are mostly important to robins when feeding their young.  Because of that, robins don’t even nest until the humidity is high enough to bring earthworms close to the ground’s surface.  And once adult robins are done feeding worms to their young, they live mostly on fruit.  So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw this robin gobbling berries from a neighbor’s Mountain Ash tree. 


 Another bird Strassmann focused on was the Blue Jay.  They are a gorgeous bird with bright blue to near purple colors.  Yet not a single state claims the Blue Jay as its state bird, probably because of its reputation as being noisy and bossy.  I was actually surprised to find so few jays in my photography library, especially since they are so photogenic.  I guess I don’t like bully birds either.


 But I did learn from the book how smart Blue Jays are.  They hide hundreds of nuts for the winter and are able to easily find these nuts, indicating they remembered where they were hidden.  I saw evidence of their intelligence too as Blue Jays were the only bird to immediately figure out how to use my new nut feeder.


 Strassmann also discusses the Northern Cardinal, another beauty and probably my favorite bird.  Unlike the jay, the cardinal is the most chosen state bird, claimed by seven states.  I feel the female cardinal, with its tan and russet coloring, is just as beautiful as the bright red male bird.


 But there’s one bird that’s been elusive to my photography, the Cooper’s Hawk.**  Strassmann calls it the “predator at your bird feeder.”  I know it’s around because I’ve seen it swoop by in a blur and snatch little birds off my feeders.  I’ve also seen feathers and parts of a dead Mourning Dove on the lawn and am sure it was killed by a Cooper’s.


 One day before the migration began, I the saw a Cooper’s Hawk perched right on my deck railing, something Strassmann calls a plucking perch.  The gall of it!  I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to photograph it, though.  

Meanwhile, I’m using the fascinating information in Slow Birding to enjoy my own backyard birds more and more.   Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

**This image of the Cooper’s Hawk was taken by Ryan Schain and is part of the Macaulay Library at 


Wednesday, November 16, 2022



Guest Photographer:  Don Burton

 I met Don through his wife Diana.  They’ve recently moved to Traverse City and I’ve enjoyed showing them around some of my favorite photography haunts.


DON:  Everything up close – I enjoy Macro Photography. It gives a different view of life around me. Even snow flakes tell a story of temperature and weather. 


 By mid-summer the chipmunk begins building a food pantry.


 Then the spiders are building their webs and start catching food. 

The Monarch butterfly depends on this weed, the caterpillar depends on the “milk” like juices for nourishment and protection for the caterpillar as it becomes becomes a butterfly.  The “milk” is poisonous to most living creatures, but not to the Monarch.

Each Milkweed pod hold countless seeds. I’m amazed how the helicopter-like extensions can grow and then free to fly in the fall winds to next years home.


 Sleeping Bear – When I view the sand dunes, I try to image all the different creatures depending on a good summer and homes for the winner.


 Ice weeds – Early winter snows may turn wet and freeze. The ice coats everything and accents the profile of the plants.

Hibiscus – The hibiscus produces a new flower most everyday. It must take loads of energy from the plant to produce such large flowers. 

Summer Grasses – With the grass profile between the sun and the camera, I can see details that normally I can’t see. 

Cone Flower – By late summer the Cone Flower produces seeds that provide nectar for creatures that hang around late in the summer. 

Black-eyed Susans – This flower is a peak midsummer and holds its bright yellow.

Thanks, Don. You are really an amazing macro photographer and I enjoyed seeing your kind of work for the first time.  

Surgery Update:  I’m now ten days out from my left knee replacement and I'm doing okay.  It's still slower progress than with my first knee, and I'm not happy about that, but it is what it is.  I'm going in the right direction.

Sunday, November 13, 2022



Guest Photographer:  Peg Cancro 

You might remember my next photographer, who did a blog for me last February about her trip to Africa.  This time, Peg is going to talk about Cedar, the Golden Retriever she shares with her spouse, Lynda.   


Peg:  Cedar was rescued at 5 months by Great Lakes Golden Retriever Rescue. He was given up by a family who thought he was aggressive.  We met Cedar when he was 7 months old.  For us, it was love at first sight!  How could anyone give up this adorable pup!


 Cedar, now 4 1/2 years old, is happiest when retrieving and holding two balls in his mouth at once.  Tennis or squeaky balls will do!  He has tried three but it doesn’t work well so two are his limit.


 Cedar loves the water, both lakes and pools.  Here is he on the dock last summer at our Torch Lake vacation.


 Cedar actually loves to float more than swim, and, of course, he prefers having his tennis balls with him!


 Cedar makes new friends easily with both dogs and people.  Here he’s swimming with his friend Greyson.  Notice the ever-present balls.


 Cedar possesses a very sweet temperament and lets puppies climb all over him.  There’s not a mean bone in his body.  Here he is with Luna.


 He learns quickly and is naturally curious, checking out his friend Kermit.


 Cedar is fun-loving too.  Just like kids, he enjoys jumping in the leaves.


 He’s a handsome dude also.  This is his GQ shot.


 As you might have guessed from these photos, Cedar provides us with an abundance of joy, laughter, and unconditional love.  

All photos were shot with an iPhone 11pro.

Thanks, Peg.  I appreciate your wonderful pictures and helping out.  

Surgery Update:  I’m a week out from my left knee replacement.  My surgeon told me no two knees are the same and that is true in my case.  My first knee in January was easy compared to this one which has more pain and more reactions from the pain killers.  I'm hanging in there, though, and hoping each day will improve.


Thursday, November 10, 2022


 Guest Photographer:  Diana Burton

Diana was first a friend when I lived in Northport.  She and her husband Don moved to Traverse City this summer and it’s great to have good photography buddies right here in town.

Diana Burton:  The pictures in this blog are some of my favorite photos from living in Leelanau County. Many were taken with my iPhone. When I met my new husband, Don, he was a photographer and let me use his camera. He taught me how to use his Macro lens. I enjoy taking close-up photos. 

This was picture taken on M204 near Lake Leelanau. It reminded me of emerging hope.

I fell in love with taking pictures of fungi while hiking through Leelanau State Park. This picture was on a trail in Cherry Homes. 

A hawk weed that grew next to my home in Cherry Homes. I love the vibrant color. 


 This is one of the first pictures I took with Macro lens. We were on the Tart Trail south of Sutton’s Bay. This was a wild grape vine wrapped around a small tree. 


 This thistle picture was taken with the Macro lens at the Grand Traverse Light House.


 This photo was taken at the Grand Traverse Light House with a Macro Lens

A local farmer allowed my friends and I to pick some of his cherries. The morning dew was still present on the cherries. 

A fall leaf found on a daily walk. I loved the reds!

Thursday, November 3, 2022



I was out taking pictures a week ago.  My friends Diana and Don Burton had joined me.


 I’d told them about the beautiful birch grove I’d discovered a few days earlier while adventuring onto a seasonal road I hadn’t traveled before.


  A narrow two-track beckoned us into the birch stand and I drove in.  Brown ferns swished both sides of my car and tall grass rubbed my Subaru’s underside. 


 How beautiful it was!  


 Yellow leaves fluttering in the breeze. 

Stunning, white bark on the trees.


 Diana got out of the car and examined the leaves and bark of the trees.  She came back with the news that my birch trees were actually Quaking Aspen.  And she would know as a native of Colorado, where aspen are plentiful.


 I didn’t even know aspen were native to Michigan but they are, especially in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.


 Aspens trees often have scars on the trunks that look like eyes.  They form when the tree “self prunes” by dropping smaller branches that don’t receive enough sunlight.


 Those white bark trees can be tricky to identify, but I was happy to become acquainted with the Quaking Aspen in our area.

Surgery Note:  I will have my left knee replaced next Monday, November 7.  My right knee was replaced in January and it was a huge success so I’m looking forward to having two good knees.  I’ll be having some Guest Photographers for a couple weeks while I recover, but I’ll keep you posted.