Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Whiting Overlook Park

After seeing several photographs of eagles and pelicans on Facebook I decided to head up to Midland and see this park for myself.

Nature and industry coexisting.

I could tell from many of the photos that this was not a conventional park filled with hiking trails and wide swaths of woods for wandering.

But I was still surprised to find that it consisted of a parking lot on top of a high hill overlooking ponds which are part of the Dow Chemical complex.

As I drove up the hill I could see an eagle sitting in a tree.

Guarding the park.

The light wasn’t good, a bank of clouds was encroaching on the sunshine I’d left at home, two hours to the south. Still, on occassion when I first arrived, the sun broke through the clouds.

Oh! And a juvinile down below!

And it was windy! Between trying to focus on the eagle who flew out over the water as soon as I arrived, and trying to keep my hair out of the frame, I almost missed the pelicans swimming very close to the edge of the pond, behind the chain link fence.

It was hard shooting through the chain link fence.

While I was trying to catch an image of them, shooting through the fence, I lost track of the eagle until I heard a whole lot of eagle type noises coming from the trees.

Look closely, there are three juviniles here, all landing in a tree.

Turns out there were three juviniles, all landing close together. I’m pretty sure one of them had a fish.

This little diving duck was surprised when he came up right in front of the pelican!

Pretty much the whole time I was there I was pointing the camera either at the water following the pelicans, or the sky trying to get a sharp image of the eagles.

The light felt like it was evening, but it was 9:30 in the morning.

I was facinated how these beautiful wild birds coexisted so well with industry.

Such an unusual place to witness an eagle in flight.

I was unsure if the eagles coexist with each other quite as well.

Looks like the adult has something to say.

Mostly the eagles soared round and round, higher and higher. I never saw any of them dive into the water, though when they were flying closer to the ponds the ducks seemed to scatter.

The sky was interesting, but made shooting the birds so difficult.

It was hard to keep track of the big birds, they were really very far away. Sometimes the only way I knew where they were was their noisy discussion amongst themselves.

The light caught his head and the lead edge of his wing.

When the sun slid out for a moment it was easier to find the adult, with his bright white head…

Sometimes the tail was the give away.

…and tail.

The whole time I was there, sitting in the car until an eagle took off from a tree, then popping out to try to get an image, I didn’t think I got anything worth looking at.

He turned into a painting.

I was shooting pretty much into the light, what light there was. And the birds were so darn far away. These were all shot with my longest lens, and they are still cropped a whole lot. Hence the painterly looking images.

I think I’ll go back some day when the sun is shining brighter, and perhaps later in the day to get the sun behind me rather than shining in my eyes.

The best part of the day was just sitting and watching them fly.

I felt lucky today that they were so active. I didn’t get the perfect eagle (or pelican for that matter) shot, but I got to see them flying, so much more fun than watching them watch me while they sit still on a branch.

Landing gear down, more pelicans arrive.

None of these images are great, but I had fun, and I figured you’d have fun looking at them too.

Soar like an eagle….

If you’re a birder, this would be a fun place to visit with powerful binoculars. You can sit in the car and watch some amazing birds. Can’t beat it! (You might want to look at these pictures on something bigger than your phone!)

The clouds moved in and I moved out.


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Shiawasee Nature Refuge part two

So where did I leave you? Ah yes….at the viewing platform overlooking the wetlands, about two miles from the car.

An excellent place to watch the birds.

Since we’ve been lugging the camera backpack filled with lenses and spare batteries all this way, this would be a good time to change to the long lens. Don’t you think? And perhaps take a sip from the water bottle that’s been adding weight to the bag for the long trek out here.

I loved the stripes of color.

There, that’s better.

So, out here in the open marsh you can here sandhill cranes and Canadian geese as they fly in and out. A few trumpeter swans too. No pelicans this time, and that’s disappointing, but I’m too late in the season for much of a variety.

These guys decided to move on to a place less habited by nosey humans.

The other people on the viewing platform have high powered binoculars, and they are watching a northern harrier harrass a young bald eagle. I can’t see any of that of course, but I enjoy listening to them talk about it.

Yep way over there is a tree that often hosts eagles. In fact that might be one to the left, or that might be the harrier.

Mostly I watch the geese that were nearest to me and enjoy the sun and the sitting down for a bit.

And then I decide I’ll head back, but take a path I’ve never chosen before, out past the tree where, on a previous visit, I’d seen so many eagles, out along the edge of the wetlands, because you just never know what you’ll find.

It was a beautiful day, even if I didn’t get any great shots of an eagle.

And I do find the juvinile eagle, I think, though I can’t get a close enough view of him to be sure. I have a longer lens than I had last year, but he was still a long ways away. For all I know, this is the harrier, rather than the eagle. He (or she) is fun to watch either way, soaring high above the grasses, searching for a meal.

A super cropped image of a bird. Might be an eagle. But I think it’s the harrier. Cool either way.

I come across a passel of cranes, standing around out there in a clump. No noise, just hanging out. When they see me noticing them they begin to walk away at a fast clip, so I move on, not wanting to upset them.

Moving quietly back into the grass so as not to attract any more attention.

And then I begin the long wander back to the car. It is a beautiful day and I’m not at all disappointed that I don’t have anything spectacular to shoot. But wait! There’s an eagle’s nest! Wow, that thing is huge! Now I know which way I’ll walk next spring when there might be some activity there, maybe early in the season before leaves obscure the view.

This won’t be easy to see once the tree leafs out.

It’s not far from the tree where I’ve seen eagles, adult and juviniles…and it’s in the direction I always see them flying from out there. Now it all makes sense. I’m excited for next season!

But other than that my walk back is just filled with beautiful fall sights. I am walking on a path less traveled, and mostly not mowed, so I am glad for my waterproof hiking shoes keeping my feet dry.

Even though I am on the lookout for birds of any size, and though I hear a few, I don’t see any. I probably need to sit in one place, as I’ve considered on other visits to this park, and wait for something to come by in stead of tromping noisily through the woods.

But I am hungry, and tired, and still a long way from the car, so I trek on.

I like the spunkiness of the little tree growing in the remains of it’s ancestor.

The views don’t disappoint. Just about any direction I look there is something pretty.

Another dyke flanked by leaning trees. These always remind me of Marines at a wedding, with their swords forming a tunnel for the bride and groom. Actually, a wedding woud be amazing here.

I can’t stop taking pictures, but that’s no surprise to anyone. Right?

Such great colors and shapes, it’s impossible to resist taking just one more shot.

But eventually I put the lens cap back on, resolving to move faster toward the car and the banana waiting for me. I even pass up the opportunity to sit on a bench, because I know I am only half a mile away from the parking lot.

A tempting bench. If I’d had my lunch with me I might have stopped.

I promise myself I’m not taking any more images. Just going to forge ahead, eyes front, no stopping. Really.

Hmmmm….what’s making all that noise over there?

But I can’t ignore the huge ruckus coming up from a field just beyond the trees to my right. When I come to an opening I see what must be the party room for cranes. Because they are dancing up a storm. So I had to take the lens cap back off. You would have too, I’m sure.

And then I hear this little guy, and since he is the only little bird I’ve seen clearly all day, well, the lens cap comes off again.

It’s not even a good shot, but he is the only one that cooperated, so he gets to be in the blog.

And then, finally, I make it back to the car. My 4+ mile walk through the woods is over, and I know I wouldn’t be back until spring. Unless I decide a winter hike is in order. I guess I’ll put that idea into the ‘things to ponder’ file drawer and see what the winter weather is like this year.

Always notice the light.

More likely I’ll be back in the spring, when northern migration is happening and there will be more activity to wittness. I’ll be sure to bring you along whenever I go back. Maybe I’ll even carry a banana with me so I can stay out there longer.

Come along with me, the walking is marvelous!

You’ll be responsible for your own snacks. And your waterproof shoes.

Stay tuned.


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A little crane conversation

Last week I ran up to the post office on my way out to Katie’s park. Katie was in the back seat. My camera was on the passenger seat. I dropped off the letters that needed to be mailed and was headed to Katie’s park when I noticed these two having an intense conversation.

Or something.

“I’m tired of discussing it.”
“We haven’t solved anything yet.”
“But I don’t WANT to talk about it anymore!”
“We should be able to talk about it like rational adults.”
But I don’t WANT to!”
“I swear, you never let anything just go!”
“OMG, you are just too much!”
“Whatever.”


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Walktober 2021

As usual I had grand plans for Walktober. A place a couple of hours away was calling my name, but also as usual life got in the way and I can’t find a day when I can spend four hours to travel plus a couple hours of exploration.

So that adventure will have to wait for another time.

Pretty quiet at the heron rookery.

Meanwhile, it’s not that I haven’t had mini adventures right around here. Katie and I have wandered in plenty of parks this month. Any one of them would be a wonderful Walktober. But she already got to do her Walktober, and I wanted one of my own.

“Hey mama! I should be included in EVERY adventure!”

So I’ll share an adventure I recently had with a college friend I haven’t seen in many, many years. Since she retired from her career she’s become interested in birds; she’s joined birding groups online and is learning all kinds of cool things.

It was quiet enough to take a nap.

She’s seen my posts about the birds out at Kensington, and has never had a bird land on her hand before. She, like so many of you, wanted to experience that for herself. So we met out there on Wednesday.

So many choices.

I get such a kick, every time I take someone new out there, watching their face the first time a little bird lands on their hand. Every single person grins with such a quiet but intense joy.

Double the joy.

The little birds weigh next to nothing, they rest so lightly on the fingertips, you’re not sure they stopped there at all. It’s magic.

Grab and go.

So, we wandered the trails in the woods, stopping every time we heard the little ones chripping overhead, offering them special treats of peanuts and suet balls and black oilers.

I spent some time with the birds too.

Some of the birds were quite decisive, others took their time to select the perfect morsel.

“I think this seed will do.”

It was a wonderful walk in the woods, on a beautiful, perfect day. We even saw a bird new to both of us, a juvinile red headed woodpecker! We didn’t get a close look, but we saw him (or her?) flit through the trees several times.

Did you know a juvinile red headed woodpecker has a brown head? Me either.

What an extraordinary bird, so beautiful when it flies, with slashes of bright white across the back of it’s wings.

So even though I didn’t get to travel to the far-off park this time, I promise I’ll share it with you when I do. Maybe it will be in November. Maybe it will be in 2022.

The regulars were still in residence, even this late in the season.

It’s nice to have something to look forward to.

Thanks, Robin, for hosting this Walktober for all of us. It was wonderful to get out into the world and enjoy everything that October has to share.

“But next time make sure I get some treats too!”


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Little smiles

Changing gears from the previous two posts…

…how about we just look at the frolicing going on in my backyard.


I know you’ve all seen my birds and others before.

But these are brand new images Promise.

I should try to learn how to do a slideshow in this new blockhead format.

But I don’t have time or patience.

So you only get a few.

But they made you smile, didn’t they.


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Almost silent Sunday morning

Katie and I are sitting on the deck. I’m indulging her, letting her nap in a puddle of sun before the day gets so hot neither of us can sit out here.

I think the sun makes her old joints feel better.

I’ve filled the bird feeders and now listen intently as the sound of wings begins to overshadow the sound of a far away lawn mower.

The birds are used to us sitting out here, and they take the calculated risk of coming in for a bit of seed, even though it’s only a few feet from the dog and me.

My two nuthatches are the first to arrive. I hear their soft whining before I find them high up in the trees. Each ventures, headfirst, down a trunk, scurrying in a race to reach the seed first.

Under the deck a chipmunk causes a ruckus running into the roof gutter drain. I guess he’s not as brave as the little birds.

The chickadees have shown up, a whole flock of them this year. As youngsters they were shy, but now they’re old hands at stealing a seed and whirring up into the tree to eat it. There are so many I can’t keep track.

A cardinal has risked landing on the flat feeder, several feet away. If we sit still he will sit there and eat until something bothers him. He has the flat feeder all to himself for the moment, just the way he likes it.

The titmouse is late this morning. Usually she’s the first to come in when they hear the seed can being opened. She flies so fast, through the limbs of the honeysuckle to grab her share.

And there’s a little downy woodpecker, hanging upside down on the tube feeder. I haven’t seen him in awhile, it’s nice to see him here this morning.

Katie gets anxious, wanting a treat for herself, but I can’t leave yet — the hairy woodpecker has arrived. And now the hummingbirds, the male and female ruby throated, are chasing each other among the pink leaves of the beach tree.

But she’s barking now. A princess isn’t required to be patient.

So we go in and let the birds have their breakfast buffet in peace.


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Midsummer morning

I feel as if summer is sliding away from me, days turning into minutes, weeks into moments. Yet it’s only the beginning of August, there’s plenty of summer left, especially for a retiree. Right? Being retired is enough to make me smile, but my walk on a midsummer’s morning made me absolutely grin.

The dreaded first sighting of goldenrod.

I was out at my favorite park this past Thursday, while it was still July, while I could still consider it mid-summer, and yet I felt fall encroaching.

Beautiful, but I’m not ready for leaves turning yet.

I went with my biggest lens, the better to see birds in their natural space versus standing on my outstretched palm.

But of course I did have a few birds in my hand. Can’t not do that.

But what I found instead was a whole forest filled with youngsters. And I don’t mean the busses of preschoolers that arrived as I was leaving. Thank goodness.

I don’t know what this is, but it was pretty.

I have so much to show you from my walk in the woods, I don’t know if I should break it up into two posts, or if you’ll have the patience to read one long post.

Joe Pye is beginning to bloom.

I don’t even know if I have the patience to write one long post.

The grasses are maturing.

You can always scroll through and just look at the pictures. I have a feeling the words will be minimal anyway.

Wild grapes are beginning to pink.

I got to the nature center early in the morning, but on the drive through the park I noticed my favorite willow tree island had a beautiful swan. So after I parked I walked back along the bikepath to capture her as she preened.

Was she using the water as her mirror?

Notice the grey pile of fluff off to the right? That is her baby, or maybe more than one, I couldn’t really tell. Her partner is swimming behind the island, couldn’t see him well either.

Her little one (or more) are well hidden in the shade.

But she (I’ve decided it’s a she, I really don’t know) sure was taking her time getting beautiful that morning.

Looking stunning that morning.

Then I walked back to the parking lot at the nature center to get the rest of my gear, and found this exhausted and hungry mama, right beside the bike rack.

Eating at the parking lot salad bar.

With my long lens I was able to get quite close without interrupting her breakfast.

And beside her, on the other side of the bike rack, were the normal crane parking lot greeters, getting spruced up for their shift of collecting the lot fee from everyone arriving to enjoy the trails.

Hurry up Henry, we’re going to be late for work!

Lucky for me I got there before they clocked in.

So I headed into the woods…

The bridge to the woods.

…and met this guy right away. He already had breakfast so I didn’t offer him anything more.

You’re not going INTO THE WOODS, are you?!

It was right about then that I noticed a sense of fall seeping into air. I shook it off and ventured further into the dark cool green, and interrupted two moms and their little ones having some breakfast of their own.

Family brunch interrupted.

I stood there a long time watching them watching me.

Mama and her mini-me.

This little one was intensly curious about me.

Should I run or should I stay?

And then I heard a titmouse, just over my right shoulder, angrly asking why I wasn’t providing a snack. So I handed off a peanut and moved on.

Hey Lady! Fork over the peanut! I know you have one!!

I only saw one other person my entire walk in the woods, and that was another photographer.

I see something right over there…

As soon as he got down from the bench and moved on this mama came out of the brush.

Is he gone yet?

I took a different trail and moved deeper into the woods. The long lens wasn’t really the right choice with so little light. But I didn’t want to stop to change it because you just never know what you’ll see.

Oops, thought it was another deer!

Or how far away it might be.

Way over there on that ridge is another exhausted mama, chewing her cud and watching me.

But the mosquitos were beginning to follow me. I pictured myself running out of the woods with a swarm of bugs trailing me, sort of like a Bernstein Bear cartoon. I moved faster.

After clambering over a downed tree that crossed the trail I was shooting an image of a tree damaged in the recent storms where the fresh wood had a similar color to deer, confusing me for a moment…

Kind of the same color as the deer roaming these woods.

…when out of the corner of my eye I saw more of that reddish brown.

Another mama and her baby hoping to have an undisturbed meal.

These two didn’t seem to realize I was there. Until mama did.

Lady, you need to move along now.

The baby didn’t seem too bothered by me at all, but I went on down the trail so they could enjoy mama/baby time alone. Plus I was beginning to get hungry myself, it had been a long time since my own breakfast, and I was still deep in the woods with a long walk back.

See you later, lady!

I tried not to stop anymore as I booked it out of the deep woods. Except when I saw something interesting. Or fun. Or both.

This says late summer to me for sure.

But mostly I was trying to get back into the open where the breeze would keep the bugs from swarming around my head. Yes, I had applied bug spray before I left the car, but not on my hands, because I knew I’d be feeding birds. I guess that made me fair game for the mosquitos.

Bet you didn’t know crocodiles lived in the woods!

Back out in the open I had a nuthatch and a chickadee makeing big noises about getting a treat, but they wouldn’t come down to my hand. I finally figured out that maybe they were this year’s young, and not quite confident about the whole process of coming in for a snack.

Tell me how this works again, lady?

But eventually they both came down, after doing a fly over or two to check me out.

This peanut is almost as big as me!

The sky was getting dark and I figured it would soon rain, so I headed back to the car. Climbing the stairs to the parking lot I could hear people, cars and busses.

Change of shift for the swallows.

I was glad I’d gotten my walk in the woods finished before the masses arrived. Time to head back home to the princess who would just be getting up from her morning nap.

Earlier in the morning there were deer and cranes. Now bikes rest while their people explore.

It was a good midsummer day all around.