Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

Songs of Shiawasee


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.

It was a beautiful sunny day. Perfect for basking.

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?

This might be a king bird. Or something else. I thought he was very elegant.

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.

This juvenile bald eagle startled me, coming off of a telephone pole just as I drove by.

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.

Not all the pretty things are wildlife. At least this water lily stood still for me.

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.

I watched this blue heron scratch his chin for several minutes before he took off for parts unknown.

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.

Way over there is a tree that usually has eagles sitting in it. You can get closer if you’re walking, but they always see you and fly away.

But boy, you have to be ready for anything while driving, just like when you’re walking in the woods.

Mama wood duck and her brood. Not in focus, but way too cute to leave out.

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?)

Do you see the heron out there looking for lunch?

I lost lots of great shots because I couldn’t get a fast enough focus.

Look closely and you’ll see a bunch of wood ducks startled by me driving by. Not in focus, but cool anyway.

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.

Not in focus, but there was a car behind me and I didn’t take the time to check my shot. Darn.

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.

“Can’t get a lick of sleep around here.”

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 think something wasn’t going down easily.

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.

Notice the color on his tail feathers?

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.

The light playing on the water caught my attention.

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.

Out with a park ranger learning about cool stuff.

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.

On guard.

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.

The milkweed is just about ready to burst into summer.

And I got some nice photos to prove it.

I hope you enjoyed the ride and walk!

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

31 thoughts on “Songs of Shiawasee

  1. WOW – beautiful shots! Again. Being in nature is so good for a healing heart that misses loved ones. While all the photos are beautiful, I think you should submit the Blue Heron photo to Michigan’s travel magazine. Thanks for sharing. PS – On a side note, are you seeing lots of ticks in your area? I haven’t gone to any parks, but I hear we have a lot of them this year?!


    • I pulled 3 off of Katie-girl this spring, and the groomer found one on her at her last grooming in early May. That’s 4 x as many as I generally find on her. And we hadn’t been out in the woods, just casual walks down the subdivision road and back. So I think it’s going to be a horrible year for ticks. I fully expected to have some one me when I got back to the car after walking at the refuge, but I did not.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aw, poor Katie. Some years are definitely worse than others when it comes to ticks. I know that chickens love to eat the ticks. Makes me wonder about getting some and then I realize how much work they are.
        I hope the ticks stay clear from you!!


  2. What a wonderful walk. Those baby wood ducks-OH! and to see and Eagle’s nest with an eagle- well that would just about make my year. Such an abundance of wildlife, what a great day


  3. A pretty good day is right! Fabulous pictures of the denizens of this beautiful place. Hard to pick a favorite, but the photo of the wetlands and the various birds is at the top for me. Also really like the close-up of the heron.


  4. I’d say you had a GREAT day! Beautiful images and yes, that heron was worth the second loop, for sure. I am amazed at the size of the eagle’s nest! I never see any around here, even though I know there are some now and again.
    Gorgeous photos, Dawn, even the not so focused (we wouldn’t have noticed!)


    • I had a pretty good shot of the heron from my first loop, but from the back. The second loop I looked back at him after I passed and thought “THAT”S A LOT BETTER!!” 🙂 Yes the eagle nests are huge!!! I realized it especially when I see one with an eagle in it. The eagle itself is a huge bird, but it looks small compared to that nest!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely beautiful! What a variety of birds you got to see. The heron! Wow. They are so cool.


    • Herons are so shy. This guy was sleeping when I went by him the first time, but he opened his eyes when I was shooting….I guess he’s used to being the subject of our curiosity. I’m glad he stood still. Usually they fly when I get anywhere near. I wasn’t all that near, up on a dike, with a long camera lens, and then this shot was cropped on top of that.


  6. Once again, stunning pictures! I think bird’s knees are backwards, so are they knees or elbows? Or something else entirely?


  7. Nice shots. The two great blue shots are my favorite (OK, there was a third in the distance shot that is fine)


  8. You needn’t be overly critical of your efforts, Dawn — I think you did a great job finding and photographing things that would interest most of us. How cool you were able to find that eagle’s nest, and that’s a great shot of the water lily. I like that first bird in his tuxedo, too!


  9. According to “ Sandra Boynton’s Every Day’s a Fabulous Holiday 2022 Wall Calendar,” today is National Hike With a Geek day. Thanks to your post I was able to do it vicariously!


  10. Wonderful photos, Dawn. It looks like both a wonderful drive and walk. The heron scratching his chin cracked me up. He looks so SERIOUS.


  11. I envy all that water, Dawn. I made a visit to my favorite refuge on Saturday, and the freshwater ponds are completely dry. Of course, the birds can fly to spots where water still exists, but I was a little disappointed to see all that dry mud. On the other hand, I did come across a Northern Shoveler mama and babies; it seems like things are progressing as they should, despite it all.

    I love that milkweed photo. Do you know which species it is? The leaves look huge, which suggests it’s different than the ones around here.


  12. This was such a wonderful walk, Dawn! You are such a stickler–your photos look fine to me, and I am reading this from my computer. The heron scratching his chin is so much fun! In all my years of photographing herons down here, never have I seen one scratch his chin.
    So weird that you post a photo of milkweed. We were out driving today and on one corner was a sign “Milkweed for sale.” I have never seen milkweed before. And now I have!


    • I loved the chin scratcher too. He was so cute! I have another picture of him acting like an adult blue heron that is pretty, but not so interesting. We have milkweed all over here, it smells really sweet and the monarch butterflies live on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Love the basking turtles, the juvenile bald eagle, the scratching heron, the light on the water, the sleepy heron, the eagle’s nest, the gathering of humanoids (such strange animals), and the milkweed which I know nothing about. You had a darn fine day! Thanks for sharing it. Sending love.


  14. You had a great drive and a hike too! The Blue Heron shot is excellent!


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