December 2: Took our new jeep back into RRRA today to see how it handles on the trails. What a fun vehicle, we're really going to enjoy having a jeep again. The park is so very quiet this time of year and we saw many animal tracks in the fresh snow. Deer, fox, mink, coyote, opossum, squirrel & mice all left trails leading to unknown destinations. The lakes all have some ice cover now, and if these bitter cold temps. stick around it won't be long until ice fisherman haul out their shanties.
December 5: I was elated to see the wounded doe come into the pond tonight for a drink. She drank deeply for a good 10-15 minutes and the bleeding appears to have stopped. She's still having a hard time swallowing and holding liquids in her mouth, but if she's made it this far in the bitter cold temps, this strong lil girl just may have a chance yet. Since she probably can't chew, she needs some kind of mush, but in these temps. anything I set out will freeze hard as a rock. I've been taking out oats and bread- soft foods- but most likely the racoons and opposums and other deer are getting the food before she has a chance to find it. I hate to get my hopes up too high, but I am hoping with all my heart that she makes a full recovery. I gave this precious deer a new name tonight- Miracle.
December 9: My hopes continue to climb even higher for the recovery of the wounded doe. She is still coming in every afternoon to drink and last evening I spotted her eating some oats that I put out. My special friend Louise Dawson, owner of J.J. Cardinals Wild Bird & Nature Store sent me a heated birdbath that hopefully will do the trick in keeping soft food out in these bitter cold evenings.
December 11: While trail riding from the Maltby Hills area, we passed two large flocks of Wild Turkeys. The snow depth is minimal throughout the Huron National Forest area and the turkey are able to get around easily right now. We also came upon bobcat tracks on the back trails- this is the area where Garry sighted a couple bobcat last fall. We visited Loon & Crater lakes in Oscoda County & sighted quite a few Common Ravens. Very mild temps compared to what we've been having and the sun felt wonderful.
December 16: Did a bit of birding around the Prescott area today. We sighted quite a few different species of hawks out around the surrounding farmland- Red-tailed, Northern Harriers, Rough-legged and several American Kestrels.
December 19: The mercury climbed up to around 48 degrees today & I noticed quite a few small bugs flying around. Most of the snow has melted off so we took advantage of the warmer weather by disinfecting and cleaning all of the bird feeders and also cleaned out the pond again. When I moved a couple of the flagstones I discovered two very cold gray tree frogs huddled under the stones. As soon as I finished with the pond, I went indoors and Miracle came in to get a nice cold drink. This was a nice break in the weather and since the pond has been her lifeline it is crucial to keep it clean.
December 20: What a difference a day makes.
December 24: We had a pair of gorgeous Golden-crowned Kinglets on the property this afternoon. I sat out and watched them for quite awhile, zipping around from the pines to the understory, then back to the pines. A very welcome sighting.
December 29: While taking Natasha out for her first ride in the jeep we came upon a Bald Eagle sitting in a field not far from home. It rose up and perched in a tree for a short time, but soon flew west. We scoped the field out, but I couldn't see any carrion that it may have been feeding on. There is so little snowcover now that they are probably able to find more than enough food.
December 31: When I think back on this year, I recall many wonderful sightings during the time spent observing and documenting fauna and flora species for our property & immediate area. It was a year of becoming even more familiar with the local environs and it was most certainly a year of knowing that one need not travel far to discover magical treasures. Those treasures came to us in many ways. In the winter months, they came to us in the form of huge flocks of Common & Hoary Redpolls & regular sightings of Pine Grosbeaks and Purple Finch. When winter refused to loosen it's grip in the spring, they came to us in the form of huge flocks of wood warblers. 2002 will always be the 'year of the warbler' in my mind. Memories of them flowing through the property by the hundreds.. hopping about the understory, the driveway, the roofs of the house, garage and cars.. memories of sitting out in the woods and having them land next to me on the log where I sat and of looking up into the branches and seeing a warbler in virtually every tree that surrounded me. I drank in their bright colors and songs with a certain reverence. They'd travelled so far to be here and I felt humbled by their beauty and by their sheer numbers. They searched for food in a frenzy of color during those cold spring months. Spring brought many birding trips with good friends- meeting nmb friends at Tawas where we shared many laughs and a lifer Harris's Sparrow, and meeting local friends where we shared the extraordinary birding found in RRRA. Spring was a roller-coaster of weather changes that hindered the flora from blossoming and wiped out entire species of butterflies for the season. But while the butterfly species plummeted, their hearty cousins the moths, thrived. 2002 was the year that a whole new world opened up before me right out my door in the darkness of night. In the wee hours of the morning, I spent hours at my light sheets in total fascination with these insects. I can't recall ever having so much FUN in my own yard in years. 600+ documented moth species later, I still remain in awe of their diversity and their extraordinary beauty.
It was also the year where West Nile virus made it's presence known over the entire state. We donned bugshirts & bugspray and said silent prayers for the well-being of the avifauna. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds weren't as abundant as last year, but this was probably more due from the cold spring than the effects of West Nile. We watched their antics for hours on end and their territorial squeaks were such a joyful noise. Time spent observing these winged jewels is always time well spent. Poor weather conditions had a negative effect on the fall colors, but it was a magical season none-the-less. With the return of the White-throated Sparrows, the American Goldfinch numbers tripled. The quiet exodus of the passerines brought many wonderful sightings and our pond was a magnet for the migrants throughout the season. And as the winter days bring us closer to spring with each passing night, we listen to the soft hooting of the Great Horned Owls, which will soon be nesting in preparation for new beginnings.. reminding us that the seasons of life are always changing and always.. in all ways.. wondrous.