Friday, July 3, 2009


A fledgling looks up into the tree calling to his mother.

Last year about this time we were watching two robin fledglings taking flight and starting life on their own. We'd found them on the ground with very few feathers so we put them in an abandoned nest we had tied to a tree. I've learned a lot about baby birds in the year since that experience.

This year it's as if fledglings are falling out of the sky. Out of their nests anyway. Guess they do. There have been several in the yard over the past few weeks. This year it's Blackbirds and Robins. Blackbirds outnumber the robins by three to one in this case. I've watched as a mother Blackbird brings food to her baby at regular intervals. The fledgling sleeps in the grass or on the driveway in between visits. One evening he went to a fir tree and looked up into the branches calling out to his mother. She might have had a nest there. The next day he managed to get to the lot next to our house and I watched him from the kitchen window calling out when he was hungry. Mother would feed him and his little wings would flap as she did. He was out on his own flying the next day.

Yesterday a newly flighted Robin landed next to the feeder. I didn't recognize what kind of bird he was a first. He looked so exotic with spots on his chest and his feathers all kind of askew.

Tonight we have another baby blackbird in the yard. He's sleeping next to the drive close to the house. I went over before the sun set to look at him. He closed his eyes and would peek at me every so often just like my parakeets do to me sometimes as if they can hide by closing their eyes. He's a big fat baby, probably about ready to take off on his own soon. I've been hearing him all day. I recognize that call now, we've hear it so often.

They just sleep on the ground and the mother in me finds it disconcerting, hoping they'll be safe. If it would help I'd go out and sleep next to him, but I'm thinking he and his mother would rather I didn't. :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Black Squirrel

The first time I realized there were black squirrels was in the Chicago suburbs. We had a frequent visitor to our yard. He was fun to see being such an oddity. The story I heard about this was that W. K. Kellogg of the Kellogg cereal fame brought some over from Germany in his time and some were let go in Battle Creek Michigan. The stories I've heard vary about the how and why of their travels from Germany. Some say it was because Kellogg wanted to rid his area of red squirrels and was out to create a turf war. It's said that a heavy population exist only in five areas in the U.S. Detroit, MI, Reedsburg, WI, Princeton, NJ, Galesburg, IL and New Hartford, CT. No one seems to explain why that is.

They've since florished in the wilds and have traveled some apparently. This little guy showed up at our bird feeder today and posed for a few pictures.

Do you have any in your area? If so please leave a comment here and tell me where you live and if they are a once in awhile sighting or a large group population. It would be interesting to know how far they've traveled over the years.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Swan Feed Continued

This family has been dropping by every so often to get a little bread. Each day daddy was getting more aggressive. He seems to feel as head of the family he should be fed first and the most. The babies make little chirping noises and you just want to reach down and pet one or play with them, but the bloody stub you'd be left with just doesn't warrant such an act.

The third day they came for food they were about half way down the bay and started swimming toward me. Dad took off and flew toward me coming to a skid on the water. The rest of the family hurriedly followed. Dad was already hissing at me and started toward me like a hungry felon. Everything remained civilized though and when I ran out of bread I turned and went inside. But....."waitress!! we're still hungry". They waited around looking at the house for awhile so I obliged and took them out a second helping.

The next day when they came up the bay they swam fast and didn't stop at the waters edge. They all at once walked out of the water and right to me. Hissing I might add. All but the babies, the babies seemed to almost have doubled in size overnight. They chirped. They all acted ravenous, even the mom who usually stays behind and waits for everyone else. This day she was not so gentile.

Today they all stayed in the water and didn't seem nearly as famished. Something in the water was butting up against them and bothering them so they swam away even before finishing their meal. Either a large fish, snake or muskrat.

I didn't get photos the past couple days to show how much they've grown. These photos are from early in the week. I'll do a follow up soon. I know they get fed quite well around the lake. At least three families on just this bay feed them at different times and it seems they have an internal clock. They come to my spot between 1:30 and 2:00 pm. I saw them outside at 7 and went to offer them some bread but they just waited in a yard 3 houses down. Finally a lady came out and fed them, so apparently 7pm is that house. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Early Morning Swan Feed

Today is Saturday and the annual Indian Lake wide garage sale is happening today. Everyone involved is up early getting their tables all ready for the parade of cars, minivans, golf carts, bikes, strollers and pedestrians. I went through my usual routine feeding the dog, my birds and the wild birds that visit our feeder each day before opening for business. As I stood out on the deck a family of swans swam close by and I spoke to them. They quickly started my way expecting to be fed. So I went inside and got out the bread I keep just for such an occasion and went downstairs to the dock hoping they'd be waiting. They had gone down the bay a short distance but came hurriedly back when they saw me.

I had never been so close to such tiny swans before. Three grey and one white little swan swam along side their elegant and very large parents. The little ones were angelic. The male adult came up very close and hissed at me so he got fed first. The babies were in the middle and the mommy stayed just to one side but a little behind the babies. She let the kids eat first. Not so with dad! He was hungry and vocal about it. When I'd run out of bread I noticed some had dropped on the dock and I bent down to push it into the water. Both adults came at me hissing. They are very protective of their babies and rightly so.

I feel honored to have had those few moments with them this morning. I'll blink and those tiny birds will be gangly teens.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Playing With Fire

When I was a kid growing up in Kansas we lived just outside the city limits so we could burn leaves, sticks, trash, have fireworks.. all those fun things you can't do in an urban area. It wasn't long though, before we were taken into the city and those things were banned. We all lit the fireworks anyway, hoping not to get caught. But it wasn't the same.

In each place I've lived since leaves were mulched or bagged, fireworks were watched from a parking lot and set off by professionals with accompanying music on the radio. Nifty titles for the events like "Go 4th" .....

Then we moved to the Michigan countryside. It's like being a kid again. Piles of leaves get burned at the curb or in yards, almost everyone has a fire pit to enjoy any evening, roasting hot dogs or just enjoying the flames with friends. Fireworks are sold in the local grocery store. Tonight as I sat on my deck I saw a brilliant display of colored light above the trees in the distance and wondered out loud who was putting on a show this early. My husband said "probably in someones backyard", and he's probably right. Our lake association puts on a wonderful fireworks show each year and after it's over backyard shows continue late into the night. It's spectacular!!

Living in the country has many benefits, and playing "safely" with fire is one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mindful of Trees

Being raised on the plains I longed to live on a tree lined street. Maybe a forest would be closer to the truth. While I'm not in a forest there is one really close by and a trip to some of the many lakes in the area have convinced me, I've arrived.

Probably the most surpising thing to me is the population in the countryside. Traveling many states in the midwest I'd witnessed miles of nothing but fields, with tree lines to keep the soil from blowing away. Every so many miles there would be a farm or house. In the parts of western Michigan I've traveled there is a house or farm around every corner. Lots of trees as I've mentioned and rolling fields. It's quite beautiful. Does that mean farms are larger in the midwest? I don't know, but people living in the countryside of Michigan have much closer neighbors.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I'm pretty sure I never noticed sunsets before I moved to Michigan 2 years ago. Now if I don't make a point of looking I feel guilty. I'm given this magnificent show on every cloudless night and I feel it's my duty to view it. What's more I feel it's my duty to photograph it as well. I don't do quite as well getting them all on film. (The small shadow on the lake there in the center of this photo is a family of geese.)

I was sitting three nights ago on the deck watching the sunset. It seemed kind of ordinary so I didn’t run and get my camera. There was this C shaped bank of clouds and the sun was under the top portion. I just saw wonderful orange yellow sky in the opening, then the sun started peering out from under those clouds and rather quickly began to sink in a bright blaze of glory. As it disappeared behind the bottom part of that bank a tiny hole in the clouds made it seem like the trees were on fire, the sun was so bright there. About that time I left and went inside thinking I’d seen all there was to see of it and came upstairs to my desk to work. I turned toward the window and the clouds were this amazing blue and pink and I thought just when you think the show is over, it’s not, and I ran downstairs and took some pictures of again what I thought was the end of it. I came back upstairs and AGAIN the sky is now purple and pink and yellow and the clouds are blue gray. Will I ever learn. And then again it’s even different and a group of geese just flew over. The picture keeps changing and becoming more glorious. There is a lesson here.