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Tuesday
May162017

Big Week Highlights 2017

Birding was hard for us this year. As Calvin gets older he has an increasing number of responsibilities and scheduling conflicts that we have hitherto avoided with our more traditional, non-traditional homeschool schedule. In particular, the public school band times have cut into our early morning bird hikes, and since intermediate school band concert was the same week as Big Week, added rehearsal time shortened our birding further. In the end we cut back on kitchen table school requirements in order to fit bird watching between other commitments along the way.

The other thing that made Big Week tough this year was weather. Although many of the migrators that we look for follow instinctual cues to decide when to head north more than any other signs, the physical forces of nature can either push them forward or hold them back. This year, following an early warming trend that instigated early tree leafing, we were swallowed up by northerly winds that brought chilling temperatures, but, more importantly, kept southern birds from heading north into such debilitating head winds. So while we waited in the increasingly green woods, the birds were waiting for favorable winds to arrive in the south. Eventually the birds trickled in, but even when they did arrive the growing leaves made it difficult to see them.

We did manage to see most of the migrators on our list with a few special sightings to boot, but photography was near impossible with the increased foliage, so while we enjoyed several highlight birds this year, our photography "highlights" are more along the lines of "decent shots of your run-of-the-mill birds" and the handful of "it will do to prove a sighting", but in the end, we really enjoy them all.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (summer)


Hermit Thrush (migrator)


Great Horned Owl (resident)


Black-and-White Warbler (summer)


Mallard (resident)


Black-Capped Chickadee (resident)


Tree Swallow female (Summer)


American Robin (resident)


Yellow-rumped Warbler (migrator)


Red-winged Blackbird (summer)


Canada Goose (resident)


Ovenbird (summer)


Warbling Vireo (summer)


White-breasted Nuthatch (resident)


Palm Warbler (migrator)


Red-bellied Woodpecker (resident)


Nashville Warbler (migrator)


Northern Parula (migrator)


Blue Jay (resident)


Rose-breasted Grosbeak (summer)


Scarlet Tanager (summer)

Monday
May152017

Performance Week, culminating in a spring piano recital, age 10

Spring isn't just about the birds and the bees. Spring, for parents of children everywhere, is also about year-end activities, and for parents of performers, that usually means a lot of activities. If we measure this as an eight-day week, running Saturday to Saturday, Calvin had six performances. That's one choir gala (Saturday), one tap assembly (Monday), one band concert (Thursday), one play (Friday), one talent show (Friday), and one piano recital (Saturday). 

The week kicked off with the Boychoir of Ann Arbor Gala 30th Anniversary and Farewell concert. It was a special one for our family because Jon was a part of that choir thirty years ago, and Calvin is the first performing child of an alumnus. The concert was a beautiful program, and because some numbers included alumni, both of my boys sang, and both of them had solos that they knocked out of the park. I can't quite describe how eagerly I awaited this concert, or how much I enjoyed it when it arrived. 

The tap performance was actually a dance demonstration assembly put on at a local elementary school (coincidentally the school Jon attended in his youth) by Calvin's dance studio. Since it was during the day not all of the kids in the class could participate, but the bare bones dance was a special treat for Jon and me because the studio's spring recital will take place during the Sunday matinee of Calvin's YPT show, meaning he'll miss it and we won't really have a chance to see him perform what he learned in either tap or ballet this year.

Thursday night was Calvin's first band concert on a stage. I realize I sound here like the Olympic announcers looking to hyperbolize everything, but his very first ever band concert ever was in the gym during school hours, his first major band concert ever was in the bigger high school gym along with all the other area bands, now this is his first band concert on a stage. It makes a difference. So did the year of learning and practicing.

Friday's performances, the play, then clarinet and piano in the talent show were with our homeschool group, so they were pretty low key. Nuff said.

And lastly, on Saturday was Calvin's second ever age 10 spring piano recital. Second ever because last year the spring recital took place after his birthday, more in the summer, really, so that makes this his second age 10 spring piano recital. And he just about nailed it. 

Sonatina (Op. 20, No. 1) - Friedrich Kuhlau

Friday
May122017

Getting back to nature

Michigan spring is always iffy, but this year has been particularly offensive. In late February we were enjoying highs in the shorts range, and the warming trend continued, albeit sporadically, so as to fool us all into expecting a warm, early spring. The tree buds were early, the tulips were early, the grass was already greening. Then good old Mother Nature ripped the rug right out from under us and sent us, not even beautiful late snow, but nasty, wet, cold, cold, cold weather. The kind of cold that doesn't necessarily nip, but absolutely chills you to the bone. Plus drizzle, and ice rain, and sleet, and slush. It didn't help that we were, once again, battling respiratory crud, thank you public school experience. So only in the past week or two have we ventured back to our favorite birding spots and daydreamy woods spots, with the late morning sun just beginning again with the promise of warmth and rebirth.

Monday
May012017

April 2017 Recap

Tuesday
Apr252017

Baby owls

Another beautiful, sunny morning promising soft, enjoyable afternoon temps today. Last week we went on an afternoon hike, Jon enjoying a rare respite from work in the fresh air, to go see the baby owls in Eberwhite Woods. In a nature loving, family oriented town like Ann Arbor, it didn't take long for people to find, and then news to spread about, the family of Great Horned Owls nesting in the wood adjacent to a local elementary school. With tree leaves not out yet, the nest and its growing babies have been visible, easy to find even, and the woods has seen more frequent traffic than probably any other time in its history. On our own first pilgrimage a week ago we found the owls easily, and enjoyed watching the babies peer at us intently over the side of the nest before stretching their wings and toddling around in it. 

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is flexibility. When I planning the year out, slaving over a computer calendar poolside in Stratford last summer, I commuted our science book studies in favor of hiking time for most of the month of May. Then, when good weather arrived early, and the allure of owls was too great to ignore, I swapped some April weeks for May weeks in order to free up some time to breath in teh warming air, soak up the brightening sun, and strike out into the woods in serach of owls. So that first pilgrimage was followed by several others as we watched the owls stretch and toddle with more alacrity until the first one fell out and proceded to grow and develop on the ground. 

We learned a lot from our almost daily hikes in the past week. We looked up Great Horned Owls and learned about their development—their growth, their instincts, their learned behaviors—and we learned about the goodness, or protectiveness, of the people around us. the entire experience has been incredibly sweet.