Sunday, November 10, 2013

Illustrating and journaling our natural world

Artemis Eyster speaks about and demonstrates journaling in our natural world.  This is worth watching more than once.  Over the past many years, I have come to appreciate Artemis as one of our most talented and skillful botanical illustrators.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Northern Ontario visit - a photo essay

From September 22nd through the 25th I visited my brother's 265 acre property in Northern Ontario.  The daytime weather was gorgeous and, as soon as the sun went down, the nighttime temperatures were cold. We had a bonfire every night to keep warm.

In no particular order, the following photos are just a selection of some of my favorites - bad as some are - to remember the trip by.  The morning fog and bright sun made it somewhat challenging for light conditions.  

Freshly emerged Monarch butterfly clinging to sunless
wood pile for over 24 hours. 

No life birds were seen during my brief stay in Northern Ontario - but, there was one possibility; American Three-toed Woodpecker.  I heard the sharp chip note of a woodpecker that, if I was in the lower peninsula, would have not created a question mark.  But, in N. Ontario?  I finally found the bird; indeed, a Hairy Woodpecker.

I did see a life butterfly - unfortunately, no chance for a photo - of the northern version of Red-spotted Purple, a White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis).  It's somewhat difficult to see how this is a sub-species of the Red-spotted Purple - but it is.

Poor photo of Red-breasted Nuthatch

The property's original building nicknamed "the mouse house."

Poor photo of coyote hunting the meadow

Beautiful spiderweb high up in tree

Pileated Woodpecker

The swamp or bog

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Hermit Thrush

White-crowned Sparrow

Same bird - probably a hatch year bird.

Monach butterfly gently lifted from the sunless wood pile and placed
in the sun.  It flew away an hour later.

Palm Warbler

White-throated Sparrow 

A view of Basswood Lake

Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar?

Pond across from my brother's bog.

Swamp Sparrow - what a miss!  Could have been such a
good photo.

I was amazed by all the spiderwebs here

Northern Flicker perfectly posed but made fuzzy by the
early morning fog.

Study in cuteness - baby Red Squirrel.  There were two playing under
the mouse house.

Pretty pink bog plant

Bog or swamp on my brother's land.  Though it appears
perfect for moose browsing, I never did see a moose ...
or a bear.

Song Sparrow.  Counting junco and Lincoln, this was a seven
sparrow species two days.

Savannah Sparrow

Same Savannah

Unidentified dragonfly

Unidentified slow and fuzzy tiny insect that the
Green Darners hawked and ate.

Savannah Sparrow

Green Darner (I think)

Canoeing around Ralph Lake - the most pristine lake I have
ever been on.  The bright sun mutes the bursting color of the
deciduous leaves.

The long view from the bottom of the driveway

Sunday, September 1, 2013

End of summer visit with friends

On the final Saturday of summer sister and brother team, Artemis and Harold Eyster, and I got together for the first time since last year's Christmas Bird Count.  I picked them up at their home and our first sighting of the morning was this baby treefrog (Hyla versicolor or H. chrysoscelis) on their sidewalk.    

Our get-together was ostensibly for birding, but as it turned out we didn't find much of note at our selected sites.  We traveled to Schneider Road pond where there was a single yellowlegs (probably Greater), a single Spotted Sandpiper and a Killdeer.  Of the non-shorebirds we saw two Trumpeter swans and a single Great Egret.  The pond along the busy road (can't recall the name of the road, but readers acquainted with this location will know) traditionally reliable for Common Gallinule had three.  Also present here was a single female Green-winged Teal and several Wood Ducks.  Parker Road pond held a juvenile Green Heron in addition to many Wood Ducks.  Enroute to checking the two traditional sites for Red-headed Woodpecker we found a Belted Kingfisher hunting from a utility wire over a pond along Guenther Road.  Alas, we did not find Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Arguably, we might have been better off on foot at the Arb or another wooded location to look for little birds.  The night before it had rained heavily with thunder and lightening and this may have caused the fallout of autumn migrants.  Ultimately, it didn't really matter because it was just nice to have this time with the kids.  I realize that I should no longer refer to them as "the kids."  They are doing such interesting and amazing things that it is fun just to listen to them, ask questions and live vicariously.  

Driving around I recognized that we were close to Julie Craves and Darrin O'Brien's new home and I suggested we stop there for a visit.  I thought it might be nice for Julie and Darrin to also see Harold and Artemis and vice versa.  We went briefly inside to meet their new kitten, Libby (a dark tortie with an incredible life story and who can occasionally look like a long-eared owl), and to look at their flora and fauna art gallery.  They now have enough room to hang some of the nice prints, drawings and paintings they have collected over the years. Then Julie narrated a tour of their large property and their plans for it. 

On one of the chairs on their deck, Darrin pointed out treefrog poop.  To take note of poop may seem strange but this is not so out of the ordinary when with Julie and Darrin.  Julie has taken research to new levels, examining the poop of birds for the seeds of the berries they have been eating and identifying the berry.  In this way, she has learned that birds often rely heavily on non-native fruiting shrubs and trees as sources for food.  It was difficult for me to imagine the little baby treefrog we found earlier making a poop this large.  But, when they are larger, apparently they do.  Earlier Julie had found wild turkey poop with seeds on one of their paths and picked it up because it held a large seed she could not identify.      

The remaining photos are some of the other things we found on our walk.  Above is a Sympetrum sp. (1) that we did not bother to net to identify to species

Darrin commented that earlier in the week Wood frogs (Rana sylvantica) were everywhere.  On this morning we found only two. With it's black facial mask it reminded me of the common yellowthroat of frogs - pretty little thing.

Ubiquitous in gardens and fields everywhere, the Goldenrod Soldier beetle, aka Pennsylvania Leatherwing, (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus) has abundant habitat in Julie and Darrin's back field. 

There is also no shortage of milkweed here, but we found only one Milkweed Tussock moth caterpillar or Milkweed Tiger moth caterpillar (Euchaetes egle) where earlier they had been all over.

This Forage Looper (Caenurgina erechtea) moth was taking short flights around the yard and finally landed for this unobstructed photo.  

Finally, this Pine Tree Spur-throat (Melanoplus punctulatus) grasshopper got our attention because we noticed the red on the underside of its hind legs when it jumped.  Harold picked it up and it stayed put for the photograph above.  It then hopped to his shirt where it settled for a brief stopover before jumping off again.  None of us had seen this grasshopper before.  Is there such a thing as a "life grasshopper?"  There should be for such a unique and nice looking insect.  As its interesting name suggests, it eats pine needles.  The Pine Tree Spur-throat is not mentioned in the Kaufman Field Guide for Insects of North America (2), but the genus Melanoplus has at least 238 species in North America.  Additionally, it is noted that some of our worst pests come from this group.    

Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of Harold and Artemis together.  I thought of it, then forgot.  So the above photo with Harold's shirt and grasshopper and Artemis peering over will have to do.  Julie and Darrin had planned an afternoon project involving split-rail fencing(!), and since our visit was entirely impromptu and our stomachs were now calling we said goodbye and headed off to Big Boy's for lunch.  As hungry people will do, we all ordered the buffet.  It turned out that the owner of this Big Boy restaurant is from Syria and the buffet included three items not typically found on a Big Boy's buffet - hommus, baba ganoush and Syrian breadcrumbs, a pasty spread made from bread, pomegranate juice, olive oil, garlic, red chili and cummin,  This was delightful and went perfectly with my scambled eggs.

On Monday morning Harold is away to begin his second year at Harvard and Artemis will begin a busy junior year at Chelsea High with three AP classes and the myriad of other interests she has including marching band, fiddle and running.  I hope we will meet again at Christmas time.

(1).  Craves, Julie A. and O'Brien, Darrin S., 2013.  The Odanata of Wayne County, MI: Inspiration for Renewed Monitoring of Urban Areas, Northeastern Naturalist, vol. 20, no. 2, pp 341-362.

(2).  Kaufman, Kenn,, 2007.  Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North American, p. 74.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Condor vs. the Bull in Peruvian ritual

Gimpy knee is significantly improved, but still restricted to armchair birding, hopefully, for only a little longer.  This is from this morning's on-line New York Times.  If you decide to watch, you must first view a 16 second car commercial; but more importantly, you need to watch the video until the end.

Condor vs. the Bull

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bernie Krause's TED talk: The voice of the natural world

I became aware of Bernie Krause's TED talk when a birding listserve member posted the link to that list.  Bernie Krause's talk is about 15 minutes long and I can't do it justice with words in this blog entry.  All I can say is listen for yourself.  Depending on the speed of your connection/computer - do give it time to load. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rescued baby hummingbird

Armchair birding continues as I gimp along with my repaired quadriceps tendon.

A friend from work showed me this video which her friend sent to her via Facebook. The Facebook link did not work when copied into email. Another birder found the You Tube link posted by kandwarf.

The video quality is not great, but the video content is very nice.  If you are an individual with zero tolerance for sweet, touchy-feely things, I do not recommend watching.

For everyone else:  You will be charmed.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cambodian tailorbird: A new species in Phnom Penh

The BBC article is here for a quick read on the discovery of Orthotomus chaktomuk from the Mekong flood plain.  The Oriental Bird Club Journal, Forktail, will link you to the PDF write-up of the new species.

The photo below and another write-up from The Guardian.

Cambodian tailorbird found in Phnom Penh
The Cambodian tailorbird, a small bird, which has a black-feathered throat and is the size of the more common wren, which lives in thick, lowland scrub in Phnom Penh and other sites in the nearby floodplain. Photograph: James Eaton/AFP/Getty Images

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Birding's Glass Ceiling

A friend sent me this link of a recent (06-12-2013) ABA blog essay.  I thought it might also be of interest to others - especially birders who are women.

Open Mic: The Field Glass Ceiling.  At the mic:  Brooke McDonald.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Atlantic puffins in peril in U.S.

For details, please see the attached Associated Press article by Clarke Canfield.  The information discussed in the article is not surprising, but this doesn't relieve the distressing features of the problem.

Scientists warn Atlantic Puffins in peril in the U.S.

Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica) - photo taken off Ramsey Island in Wales,
June 2010

Monday, May 27, 2013

An argument for keeping cats indoors!

While a friend was helping me - secondary to my gimpy knee - pull some weeds in my front yard, we came across a dead Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) at the edge of my lawn.  To me, the injuries that are apparent on this bird make it very likely to have fallen victim to a cat.  

Now, having two of my own, I'm a cat lover - but they never leave the house.  The closest they get to the outdoors is a bench that aligns perfectly with my front window where they can sit and watch the world go by.  During warm spring and cooler summer weather, I open the window for them and they enjoy the sounds and smells of the outdoors.

Recently I have seen a dark-colored tabby roaming across my yard.  I was concerned about its presence because of the newly fledged robins (see earlier blog entry).  I found the migrant Swainson's on Friday, May 24th. 

After picking up the dead bird and laying it on my patio table for photos, I looked in the trees at the back of my yard to see a second [alive] thrush.  The photos are terrible but the second thrush is probably a Swainson's, although I can't be completely sure it's not a Gray-cheeked. Since May 24th is nearing the end of spring migration, the presence of the second bird made me wonder if they were migrating together, or if the cool weather had caused a mini fallout. 

Just another plea, along with the myriad of others that we are so well-acquainted with, to keep cats indoors.  It's better for the cats and it sure is better for the birds.

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel and more

On Sunday morning, May 25th, Rodolfo and Miryam Palma and I took advantage of the cool, sunny weather to go around Willow Run airport near Ypsilanti to see what we could find.  With the exception of a few misses - e.g. Red-tailed Hawk, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Bluebird and Grasshopper Sparrow -  I think we saw all of the Willow Run target species.  If interested, I have included our complete eBird checklist.

Wanting to remain in the car so as not to alert airport security, it was not a morning that yielded a lot of photographs.  We did, however, find a couple of pleasant surprises.

A first for all of us was this Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) along the roadside on the western edge of the airport drive.  A trip out west, especially to national parks and the like, will acquaint one with any number of these cute and industrious little creatures (I have included several in prior blog entries), but I was completely unaware that there were any ground squirrels in Michigan.  Upon arriving back home I plucked the Kaufman Field Guide to Mammals of North America (2004, p. 74-75) from the shelf and quickly made the identification with the following account.  "Originally a resident of short-grass prairies, this distinctive and adaptable ground squirrel is now abundant in many places where people mow grass: golf courses, cemeteries, parks, yards and along roadsides throughout much of central North America."  To this list I'll add airports.  When I posted this off-topic sighting on a birding listserve, I received several responses that the Thirteen-lined has also been seen at Ann Arbor airport, U of M's North Campus, Kensington Metropark and even in a friend's backyard off North Territorial in Washtenaw County.  Michigan and western Ohio seem to be the eastern limit of its range.  Pretty little thing.  All photos were taken by Rodolfo.         

Finally, I cannot omit cuteness from this blog entry.  For all of the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) we have here in Michigan and for how noisily visible they are (the latin name says it all), I will own up to not often seeing Killdeer young.  I think the last I saw young Killdeer in Michigan was about eight years ago on the front lawn of a friend's house in New Boston.  After that I saw some in an uninhabited area of central Florida in 2009.  Perhaps this is because, to me, Killdeer seem to be such good parents.  I apologize for my anthropomorphism, but I think anyone who has walked in Killdeer habitat during breeding season knows what I mean.  It's one of the reasons I don't enjoy birding the Rouge River channel in Dearborn between the end of March through the breeding season.  

In total there were three of these little guys at the edge of the road just south of where we saw the ground squirrel.  The car was a good blind. They are no longer tiny fuzz balls, but still pretty darn cute. 

Successful and enjoyable morning outing.