My sister is visiting from out of town and we’ve been busy exploring. I took her to Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge one very early morning a couple weeks ago.
I hadn’t been there in mid-summer before, preferring migration season, when the cranes are coming and going, but you never know what you’ll see on any given day. We arrived at the park before the sun was up, and it seemed pretty quiet.
I was feeling kind of disappointed that nothing seemed to be flying when suddenly the sound of wings came up from our right, moved directly overhead and then off into the distance to our left.
I don’t know what kind of birds they were, they were just black silhouettes, but thousands of smallish dark shapes flew by, heading out for breakfast and their day in the sun.
It was pretty cool.
Then we hopped back in the car and started down Wildlife Drive where, once again, I didn’t initially see anything interesting Though there was this beautiful field of something, glowing in the early light.
And as I was standing outside of the car taking that photo these guys rose up with a ruckus from the ditch right next to me.
And a little further up the road we disturbed this blue heron. I loved his long legs as he took off.
He was less than thrilled with us…
…so we moved on down the road.
At the next corner I saw an adorable duck. So of course we stopped.
Turns out he was some kind of diving duck, and the best image I grabbed of him wasn’t him at all.
And then right after the duck was a juvenile eagle hanging out in a tree.
The light wasn’t really right to get a great shot of him, so I started looking around at what else was waiting to be photographed and found my artsy-fartsy image of the day.
I don’t know why the line of dead trees caught my eye, but something about it demanded to be captured. So I did.
Then we ran across something of a bird flasher. He seemed intent on showing off everything he had. Or maybe he was just drying off from a morning swim.
And while we were watching him my sister saw a bit of gold flitting around in a stand of thistle.
I spent a long time getting an image of him eating out in nature what I usually see goldfinches eating from my feeder at home.
These ducks were swimming as if they had some sort of mission to achieve somewhere else. I have no idea what kind of duck they are. Looking in my Michigan bird book I wonder if maybe they are female wood ducks? Or maybe juveniles.
And this family of ducks were adorable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them before either.
But the bird that made me smile the widest was this guy. We’d been watching, through binoculars, a couple of bald eagles perched in a tree very far away when I happened to glance to my left and saw this:
There was an adult bald eagle in the top of a tree much closer to us. Still far away, but much closer than those eagles across the field.
We spent a long time taking shots of him, as I was struggling with my focus all day. I kept trying, manually adjusting, trying to find a place to prop my long lens because I was worried about camera shake.
My glasses were fogging up and sliding off my nose which irritated me so I put them on top of my head and then realized I couldn’t tell if anything was in focus without them. I decided to trust the lens.
Eventually I figured, what the heck, I’d try to move closer to him. I walked, under cover of the tree line toward him, moving slowly and as quietly as I could given the gravel road. I couldn’t tell if he was watching me.
I caught a bit of him through the trees then tried to move out into the open to get an unobscured shot. But he wasn’t having any of it, and that was the end of that.
But man that was fun.
We were nearing the end of Wildlife Drive, but there was still a bit more to see. We’d noticed monarch butterflies all morning, flitting among the milkweed, wings glowing in the early morning sun.
And now that the sun was higher warming the air we noticed even more.
Having not learned my lesson with the egrets, the heron, the diving duck, and the eagle, I tried to move around the butterfly to get a better angle.
But he wasn’t having it and that was the end of that.
Turns out there was so much to see along the road that had initially looked empty, and just before we left the Refuge we saw one more image that made us smile.
I know it’s not easy being green, but these guys seemed pretty comfortable in their own skins. Or should I say shells. At least they didn’t take off when I took their picture. Maybe because I shot it from the car window.
I can learn, contrary to what Katie always used to say, yes I can.