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Entries in bird watching (59)


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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)


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.


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.


Tawas with friends

We go camping with good friends every summer. Since we do this every summer, I know I've gone on about it before, explaining how this is one of my best friends from my elementary school years, who happened to have a baby only two days before I had mine, and how we found each other when said kids were not quite two, and have reforged a magnificent friendship since then that has spilled over to our husbands and children.

Since I know I've gone on and on before about that, I won't do it again here. Nor will I go on and on about how much fun the kids have, and how great it is to get away and experience the great outdoors and the wonders of campfire smoke in the eyes while trying to make s'mores, or popcorn, or dinner, or the fire itself.

I also won't make this yet another post about hiking and wildlife, since we all know how much I can go on and on about that, or birds, since everyone excepting me is probably birded out for the year. 

And since that leaves very little to talk about, here is a photo essay of our annual camping trip, spent this year in Tawas State Park.