Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Working on the backlog

Husband bought me a new camera lens for my birthday. No it’s not my birthday yet, he’s just an early shopper. I have all sorts of ideas about where I should go to try it out, but I’ve been reigning myself in because I had hundreds of images waiting to be processed while I struggled with my editing function.

As the sun came up in the east, the birds began to move.

Or lack thereof.

But now I’m back on a roll and I’ve spent a couple hours (OK more) sorting through the hundreds of images I have of my last trip to the Shiawasee National Wildlife Refuge a couple weeks ago. (I think you’ll enjoy these images more if you’re looking at them on a large screen.)

Looking to the west, with the sun rising behind me, the meadows began to glow. And more birds flew overhead.

You got to see a few of the images, straight out of the camera, in a previous post. And to be honest most of these images didn’t need much editing other than cropping to get closer to the interesting stuff.

The refuge is just over an hour away from me and I like to get there prior to sunrise, because, especially when the birds are migrating, there is so much noise and movement in the early morning moments.

A kingfisher came to sit right above me, surveying the water below.

The first time I visited I was about 30 minutes too late. That morning I could see waves of sandhill cranes flying away while I was driving down the last road, still about half a mile away. This time I got there half an hour before sunrise.

Way cropped and shot in low light, so quite noisy, but look at his colors! He caught breakfast right in front of me.

When I first got out of the car at the parking lot the sky was relatively quiet, and I wondered if I had missed them again. But moments later…well…it was incredible.

Just two of hundreds.

I stood in the parking lot watching wave after wave of noisy sandhill cranes fly by. I began to wonder how so many large birds could be sleeping in the refuge, and where in the world they were all going.

As the sun came up the undersides of the birds, the cranes, geese and ducks began to glow.

Magic.

It was pretty wonderful, and I hadn’t even left the parking lot yet. In fact I thought if that was all I did, stand in a parking lot, watching and listening to these birds, that was enough to make me smile.

Follow the leader.

Finally I made myself move on, though the birds were still flying overhead. And not far down the road I saw this group beginning it’s morning stroll. I loved how the electrical lines and the fur on some of their ears glowed with the early light.

There were about a dozen of them.

The further into the refuge I got the higher the sun rose. My objective was to get to the viewing platform, two miles from the parking lot, sometime before lunch. 🙂 I don’t move along very fast when I have my camera.

Loud singing added to the morning din.

Last fall when I was here the waterways were filled with ducks, but this time the waterways were pretty quiet. Still, the reflections were pretty stunning.

Reflecting as I walked.

And I could hear the cranes out in the open wetlands. So I moved along.

I don’t know what this tree was, but the chickadee was eating parts of the buds.

On the way I met a man coming back who pointed out a tree, surrounded by water, where eight eagles of assorted ages were sunning themselves. If he hadn’t pointed it out I never would have seen it.

A perfect place to enjoy the sun.

It wasn’t on the way to the viewing stand, but it was worth the extra walk to go out on a dike to get the best shot I could. My lens wasn’t long enough to get close, so some of these shots are pretty cropped. But you get the idea.

Such huge birds!

They watched me walk out on that dike across from them, and eventually the two mature adults and a couple of the kids flew off to another tree, further away. A couple of the teenagers weren’t bothered by me and hung out in the tree. You know how teenagers are.

We’re out of here, lady!

After the eagle adventure I made my way back and then on to the viewing platform. From there I could see across the wetland.

Incoming!

There were hundreds of sandhill cranes and ducks and seagulls out there, and wave after wave of them coming in for a landing.

It was pretty noisy.

Move over, I’m coming in!

Again I wasn’t really close enough, nor did I have a big enough long lens (though that would have been pretty heavy to carry all the way back there!) so these are really cropped. But take these images and expand them by 10 and you’ll get the idea what it was like. Everywhere there were cranes.

I saw this flock of male woodducks too.

And on the other side of the dike, in a body of water, were swans.

Swans flying west, cranes flying east.

It was all pretty amazing. I stood there a long time taking picture after picture, all of them, it turns out, pretty much the same, but it felt like I was in a snowglobe with cranes rather than snow filling the air.

I didn’t see any beavers, but obviously they were somewhere around.

I wish you all could come with me when I go back there some day. You never know what you’ll see. It probably won’t be filled with cranes (I don’t think) but there will be something else interesting.

Such a beautiful place.

Guaranteed.

And a barn.


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Reading obituaries

Who else does this? I’ve always read obituaries, especially back in the days of paper newspapers. I remember the Sunday editions had pages of them and I read them all. I particularly focused on those people close to my age, tried to figure out what killed them, so as to reassure myself that something like that couldn’t happen to me.

A little over a year ago I looked up someone’s obit, I can’t remember who, but it was someone from my hometown. I ended up at the website of the local funeral home, a funeral home that’s been in town forever, whose family owners went to the church I attended as a kid.

A flock of wood ducks.

I signed up for an email notification whenever they have another person’s obituary. I’ve found that a lot of people that went to my church as a kid have now passed through this particular funeral home.

It’s an odd feeling when I see the notification in my emails. I always take a deep breath before I click on the link to see who it was. Lots of times it’s not someone I know, not a name from my childood, not a friend of my parents, or worse, a friend of mine. But sometimes it is someone I know’s parent or sister or brother, or child.

Beaver damage.

Sometimes it’s not anyone I know, but after reading the obituary I sort of wish I had known them. Today there were three, and a couple of them struck me. The best obit opening line I’ve ever read showed up today:

“Michael XXXX, age 73 of Howell Michigan, passed away on the golf course after a frustrating double-bogey on March …” Even though I’m not a golfer I smiled as I read that first sentence. And if you can make people smile while reading your obituary, well, you’re a pretty special person in a pretty special family.

Talkative robin.

And this man was someone five years younger than me that I would have enjoyed talking to:

“Mxxx strongly believed in education. He earned Masters Degrees in Economics from Indiana State University, Business Administration from Lewis University, and Information and Library Science from Wayne State University. He was a volunteer at the Salvation Army and the Livingston County Democratic Party. He was passionate about politics, the Chicago White Sox, and the music of Bruce Springsteen.”

I wish everyone’s obituary shared such interesting and fun bits of information. I’ve often thought I’d like to write obituaries. During such a stressful time I would want families not to have to come up with it on their own. And the help from funeral homes isn’t always much more than a fill in the blank option.

I would want families to look back at that obituary and know it summed up their loved one just exactly right. A last gift to the family I guess.

Anyway…how many of you read stranger’s obituaries and consider whether they were lucky to live a full life, how many of you feel grateful for your own life when you read an obituary for someone your age, or someone who seemed to have so few loved ones left.

Or am I just odd? Maybe you shouldn’t answer that.

Reflections.

Pictures today are from my walk last week at the Shiawasee Wildlife Preserve. I still don’t have editing capabilities, so I looked for images that you could enjoy straight out of the camera. They don’t have anything to do with obituaries, but that’s OK. I know you can deal with it.

And somewhere along the line I started getting my captions in the picture, which is sort of OK, except it darkens the picture. And I haven’t figured out how to get the captions out of there. Or even to delete the whole image. So you’ll have to image that these are decent pictures with interesting colors and stuff.

Seriously WordPress, don’t you realize we already have a lot on our plates?


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A walk through Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

I follow a wildlife group on Facebook. I’ve been seeing pictures of what were identified as Brown Pelicans that people were seeing out at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge which is only a little over an hour from me. Pelicans in Michigan?

Early morning at the refuge.

I’ve been to this refuge once before, about a year ago. I saw lots of pretty things then, but no pelicans. I’ve never heard of pelicans in Michigan and I wanted to see them.

I startled a racoon as it swims over to a log to exit the water.

But life, as it usually does, interfered. I had too many commitments, too many places I needed or wanted to be. I kept putting off my trip up to Saginaw County, but those images of these beautiful birds continued to show up on Facebook.

Huge flocks of sandhill cranes flew overhead in the early morning light.

Finally I decided to add a stop at the refuge to a scheduled trip north to my happy place along the shores of Lake Michigan. I figured since I wanted to be at the refuge at sunrise I could spend as much as four hours there and still get up to Northport at a reasonable hour.

Water on either side of the dike I was walking on.

So one day last week I let Katie get me up at 3:30, put on my waterproof shoes and lightweight hiking pants and headed out the door by 4:30, prepared for a double adventure.

I arrived at the refuge as the sun was coming up. In hindsight I should have arrived even earlier, because it’s a two mile walk back to the wide open wetlands where the pelicans were supposed to be. But I saw plenty of things on my two mile walk, even as the sun crept higher and higher into the sky.

A damp egret watched me walk by.

I crept along as well, because the trail was covered in crushed stone and my heavy, waterproof shoes were so noisy on the rock that every few steps ducks rose up from the water on either side of the dike I was walking on. The noise of their flight up out of the water is startling, even after I heard it a few dozen times.

I frighten a wood duck couple into leaving.

It was hard to get a decent image of anything in the low light, no matter how high I set my ISO. But I had fun trying.

A juvie green heron, just out of focus.

By the time I got out to the open wetlands I was already tired. Such an early start, so many missed images. But then I rounded a curve and saw these guys. They sounded an alarm as I slowly approached them.

“Should we stand our ground or get the heck out of here?”

They were between me and where I needed to be in order to check out potential pelicans. I wanted to get a good picture of them flying, so I stayed prepared with the camera held up to my eyes as I moved forward. Eventually they gave up and rose into the air with great fanfare, warning about my trespassing into their space to anyone else out there that cared. They were absolutely beautiful.

The sun on their wings was so beautiful.

I coldn’t stop shooting as they rose higher and higher.

They looked like a painting.

Once they had flown off over the woods and the sound of their calls had faded I looked around and saw what I thought were some swans preening on a log on the other side of some open water.

Those are swans over there. Right?

I couldn’t see them very well, even with my long lens because I was shooting into the morning light. I was pretty sure it was a bunch of swans, so I spent some time seeing what else was out there.

Egrets discussing the weather. Or something.

The egrets were beautiful in the morning sun. And everywhere I went something flew out of the water. It was hard to keep up.

I startled this blue heron too. He left without looking back.

Still, those swans out there called me and I took more pictures. But time was ticking, and how many images did I need of a group of swans? I was getting tired and I was disappointed that I hadn’t seen the pelians.

A female wood duck takes off. I seem to be disturbing everyone!

I turned to go, and over my left shoulder three large birds flew by. Three large white birds. Could it be? Yes! They were pelicans! My settings weren’t right for a moving bird, but I got some OK shots.

White pelicans!!!!!

Then I took some more shots of those ‘swans’ back where I had turned around. Because you know what? There were more and more gathering there. And behind them were hundreds more, out of camera range. Pelicans masquerading as swans.

They call a group of pelicans a ‘pod.’ This pod was getting bigger by the minute.

I looked them up and I think these are not Brown Pelicans, but American White Pelicans. They have big black stripes on the ends of their wings, just like the images in the article. I feel lucky to have seen them.

All those white birds flying in the background are pelicans too!

After spending a long time watching them I turned and began my long walk back to the car. By now the sun was really up and so were all the little birds. Lots of hopping around in the underbrush, chirping, flitting across the path. I only got one of the little ones in a decent shot.

A little round yellow bird. Maybe a warbler?

But I saw several others too, though the images are terrible so I won’t share. I’m just glad to have seen a juvinile rose breasted grosbeak, and a white throated sparrow, who, people say, is only around in winter. Uh oh. Winter??

What a beautiful place to be on a beautiful morning.

On the way back I concentrated on moving along, but also stopping to notice the flowers still in bloom…

Everything was yellow, green or red.

…and the beautiful fall colors just starting.

The maple trees were glowing in the early light.

Four hours later I had walked a little over six miles, my feet hurt, my back hurt but my heart was full. I still had a four hour drive to Northport, but I was headed to my happy place, and had been in a very beautiful refuge. Couldn’t complain, that’s for sure.

Morning light.

Plus….I had seen hundreds and hundreds of pelicans! And now you have too!

Definitely worth getting up early!