Ok, so maybe I won’t be singing in this post, but lots of birds were vocalizing when I visited the Shiawasee National Wildlife Refuge Friday morning. (And I should thank my friend Wendy for telling me about the Merlin phone app that helped me identify so many bird songs that morning!) Want to come along? You should probably be on a screen bigger than your phone for these images. Just to get the full effect, you know.
I got a later than normal start, as I’m usually there at sunrise and this time I didn’t arrive until hours after the sun was up. But it was still morning! So that counts for something, right?
Still, there weren’t many cars in the parking lot, which now that I think about it, was irrelevant because I planned on doing the Wildlife Drive instead of doing my usual 4 mile hike through the woods.
I was curious about what I’d see from the car on the 6 mile route through the refuge. I’ve visited in late fall and early spring, but the wildlife drive is only open from June 1 through September 30 each year, so I’ve never driven it before.
I have to say there are long stretches of the road that weren’t particularly interesting to me. But when I got a good image, it was a really good image.
And it was fun to see the refuge from a different perspective. I could see, way across the wetlands, parts of the trails I usually walk.
But boy, you have to be ready for anything while driving, just like when you’re walking in the woods.
You never know when a bunch of birds will fly up over your car, or be standing silently up to their knees in water. (Do birds have knees?)
I lost lots of great shots because I couldn’t get a fast enough focus.
I was particularly disappointed by not getting a great shot of the pelicans. I caught a glimpse of them too late, when I was already past the perfect spot to stop.
I actually drove the road twice, just to get back to the pelicans to get a better shot, but they were gone when I came around the second time. But that’s OK, I got a great shot of a sleepy blue heron on my second trip around.
And I spent quite a long time watching an egret stalk his (or her) lunch on my second loop too. They are so white I’ve often had a hard time getting good images of them, but this one was close enough to notice the nuances in the tail feathers.
I don’t know what it was eating, something too small for me to see, but there seemed to be a lot of it and the bird was chowing down.
Once I got through the gate at the end of the road the second time I decided to park and go walk some small part of my typical hike. It’s just over 2 miles out to the overlook, and of course 2 miles back and I didn’t want to do all that. And I’d just driven by the overlook. Twice.
But you know how it goes. Once you get started you’re always finding something just around the next bend in the trail that sparks your interest. Plus there was this high school (or maybe college?) group that I passed and I wanted to keep ahead of them. Just because.
So I ended up doing almost the entire 4 mile loop. But that’s OK, because I got to see the eagles’ nest and at least one of the adults was sitting in it. I’m guessing there are babies up there, but I couldn’t tell.
The nest is a long way away from the trail, really too far for my lens, but you get the idea. I was thrilled it was in a dead tree. When I first saw this nest last winter I assumed that leaves would obscure the view come summer. I grinned when I turned a corner in the trail and the nest was right there. Plus the eagle, a bonus, made me smile even wider.
So, two driving loops, 12 miles, on the Wildlife Road, and a 4 mile hike through the woods. I’d say that’s a pretty good day.
And I got some nice photos to prove it.