Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sparrows and sunbathers

Technically spring began nearly one month ago, but April 16th, 17th and 18th brought the real deal.  Thursday evening, April 16th, I took another walk along the Rouge River channel.  I saw Northern Rough-wing Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis), Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) and Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis), all three my first of the season in Michigan.
Field Sparrow, above and below.
A few American Tree Sparrows (Spizella arborea) are still around.
Both the Field Sparrow and the American Tree Sparrow were doing some talented aerial bug catching,  feeding behavior not typically expected of a sparrow, but the air was full of newly hatched gnats. 

On Friday, the 17th, I took the afternoon off work so that I could have my kitchen cupboards trimmed out. I didn't want to be in the guys way so I drove over to the Henry Ford Estate woods near U of M Dearborn and the Rough River Bird Observatory.  I walked through the garden area near the estate house and around the pond.  As it turned out there were not many birds around.  Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) and a singing Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) were the most notable.
Throughout the woods the ground was carpeted by this blue spring flower.

The sunbathers, however, were present in good numbers.  I counted approximately 40 painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) hauled out on logs and downed trees anywhere there was a resting spot in the sun. 
Some tiny, like this cute little guy and his shadow.
Some medium to large; the largest turtle in the center had a deformity on the top of his carapace.
 And then there were these two medium-sized opportunists sunbathing on the back of a large snapper (Chelydra serpentina.)
Too bad this photo is not better.  This is a cropped photo of three distant turtles in poor light. At the time I probably thought all three were painted turtles.  The turtle on the left, however, is not a painted.
Cropped again for a closer view, the turtle above is a red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans.)  This is the turtle popular with the pet trade in the U.S. and many other countries.  I had one when I was a kid.  Even in captivity they can grow quite large.  Despite the poor lighting, if you look closely you can see the red stripe behind the turtle's eye.  The red-eared slider's natural range is mostly south and west of Michigan, but thanks to the pet trade, its range has increased as people release them into rivers, ponds and lakes.
When I add the cropped view of the painted turtles, you can also clearly see the differences in the carapace shape and markings and the difference in markings on the feet and legs.
Here's another red-eared slider photo that I took in Texas at the end of January, 2009.  Texas is part of the slider's natural range. To me it appears that the structure of this turtle's carapace is smoother and more domed-shaped.  The pond where this photo was taken was where we also saw the Masked Duck (Nomonyx dominicus.)  See my February 3, 2009 blog entry titled, Can one ever see too many Green Jays? 
C'mon you can do it - get up there!  Did I say I have a fondness for turtles?

Back to birds:  I have yet to see a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) this spring, but that may change when I go to Belle Isle with friends tomorrow.  This evening I added two new birds to my yard list; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) and Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) bringing my yard total to 65.   The weather is not predicted to be as nice over the next several days, but there is no denying that spring has finally arrived in Michigan.  

1 comment:

ellen abbott said...

great pics. I especially like the ones of the turtles.