I am a collector of small things. When I empty out my pockets at the end of the day, I often find many treasures; maybe a few stones, dried seed pods, the wing that was all that remained of a moth...
I also keep many journals- a collection of daily field notes, observations and sketches. Keeping a journal of my observations is a by-product of my intense desire to learn more about the natural world. The more I learn, the more I'm sure of how very little I really know.
January 1: The first bird of the year- a male Purple finch. A bright splash of color on an overcast New years day.
January 4: The weather continues to fluctuate greatly, and so have the bird numbers around the property. Yesterday it was quite warm and rained for the better part of the day. This evening it started snowing.. and snowing. We've got close to 8 inches of new snow and it's still coming down as I type. The feeders will be hopping tomorrow, I'm sure.
January 5: My predictions were right. The bird feeders were hopping all day, with many species. Right at dusk, I heard the familiar chipnotes of the male Northern Cardinal and he waited until I went back inside the house to make a brief appearance. We haven't seen the cardinals in a few weeks, so it was a very welcome sighting. The deer herd is growing larger as winter progresses- we counted 17 on the property today. One of the larger/older does has a horribly swollen foot, even her hooves are swollen. They fight pretty hard around any food, so she may have been injured by another deer. As always, when a wounded deer shows up, the others are shunning her and chasing her away from the food- nature is not always easy to watch.
January 10: We ventured over to Tawas today. I had hopes of taking some beachfront/ice photographs, but the state park has been completely closed up for the season. Many duck species were at the river mouth and also at the AuSable river mouth in Oscoda. Common Mergs, White-winged Scoters,a couple Greater black-backed gulls & Herring Gulls were among the waterbirds we enjoyed while there.
The winds were absolutely brutal blowing in off lake huron, so we didn't dally long outside. From there we took a few side trips along river road and at the whirlpool access we watched a Northern Shrike carrying a smaller bird around in its talons from tree to tree.
January 11: After visiting with friends in Birch Run today, we took the back way home and stopped by Chesaning. We both graduated from high school there, and the city has changed so very much. New homes everywhere, but the Shiawasseee river looked the same- all except for the old bridge that has been removed from Parshalburg and erected near the dam in town.
We got caught in several white-out conditions during the day, but stopped at an old favorite fishing area, back in the Shiawassee game refuge. A large herd of deer fed out in a large cornfield while a couple of juncoes flittered by while travelling down the very rough trail. A Belted Kingfisher voiced his displeasure over our arrival at his tiny spot of open water that he had his eye on. The area looks alot like we remember, but there weren't many birds or critters moving about back in the flooded area- just many snowmobilers on the river.
January 13: Yesterday, while wearing a holter monitor (a device that records the activity of a persons heart for 24 hours and you keep a log of your activity throughout the day while wearing it) we took a two track road close to home, where I saw a lone ruffed grouse ahead, slowly making it's way across the snowy trail. I got out of the jeep as quietly as I could, approaching the grouse tracks cautiously, hoping to get a photo of the bird.. then *whoom..whoom..whoom*. The log I turned in the following day read:
11:45- 3 Ruffed Grouse exploded from thick cover 4 feet from my boots.
January 14: Temperatures have plummeted again and as always, the snow brought many birds to the feeders- today was 'finch day', with over 200 American Goldfinch, many Purple Finch, Pine Siskin and Common Redpolls. We had close to two dozen Mourning Doves here and more Black-capped Chickadees than usual.
January 17: The bitter cold temperatures were still with us yesterday, but the skies were a very rare blue- so we did a bit of trail riding around Prescott and Selkirk. A huge flock of Wild Turkeys were at their usual area where the manuer spreaders are active and Common Ravens & Golden-crowned Kinglets kept us company along the river. We received more snow and today brought a few new visitors to the property- 5 gorgeous Hoary Redpolls fed alongside the other finch species. Their frosty plumage is just so gorgeous, and I hope they stick around for awhile.
January 18: Two Hoary Redpolls were still here today. Very skittish birds and I'm hoping to get a few images before they leave. Last night a flying squirrel was inside one of the open feeders and today a red squirrel was out and about. We've noticed something curious about our local deer herd. Since Garry has been doing alot of snow-blowing, he has been wearing his camo coveralls more often than usual. The deer do not like camo, if they see him in it they run like the wind. But if he comes inside and puts on his regular clothes, they will come within several feet of him. I have the feeling they've learned to associate a person wearing camoflauge with something not-so-friendly.
January 19: Last night I noticed 4 medium-sized birds feeding under the blue spruce- what a delight to see 4 Northern Cardinals. 2 Males, 2 Females. They are so very shy here and it's a very rare treat for us to see this many at once. They came in to feed twice again today. Brilliantly beautiful against the snow, I'm delighted to see them.
January 20: While waiting for the elevator inside one of the wings in West Branch Hospital, Garry pointed through the huge glass windows at the parking lot. Small ornamental trees, I'm guessing a cherry, brimming with many red berries and at least 40 Cedar Waxwings. When we finally got outdoors and into the jeep, we were parked about 4 feet from the trees/waxwings. They were gorging on the fruit and not the least bit concerned with the many people walking by. But what was even more amazing to me was the fact that not one person walking in/out of the hospital even noticed these beautiful birds that were perched right at their eye level within reaching distance. That always makes me shake my head in wonder. Also have been observing large flocks of Snow Buntings in the open areas close to home lately.
January 21: The juvenile Sharp-shinned hawk made several passes through the property today. I can't help but feel sorry for this young bird. It sat on one of the feeders where it heard a titmouse calling, then zeroed in on it and burst into the trees hot on it's tail. The titmouse escaped, but not by much. This is one hungry little hawk.
January 22: The winds and temperatures were brutally cold again today. The deer come running every time we walk out the door, hoping we toss bird seed around for the ground feeders. Birds were numerous around the feeders today, including a couple Brown Creepers that took advantage of the suet flecks in the snow while a Pileated Woodpecker fed up above.
January 23: We had a sweet little visitor today, a first winter American Tree Sparrow, all by its lonesome.
The lone Dark-eyed Junco still comes in to feed and I often wonder why this one bird chose to stay instead of following the flock when it moved on.
Common & Hoary Redpolls both hit the feeders pretty hard for the better part of the day and while heading over to Prescott we sighted 6 pheasants near the road eating grit. The cold weather seems to have stalled out right overhead and isn't budging.
January 24: A wounded doe limped in to our property late this afternoon and tried to find something to eat. She was probably hit by a car and her front left leg just dangles from her side. I was hoping to get through a full year without seeing any wounded deer here, but sadly we see them like this every year. Victims of auto encounters or hunting season. It definitely put a damper on my day. That and hearing the weather forecast which calls for up to 15 inches of snow in the next two days. Bah humbug.
January 25: The squirrel population has literally become a boreal species since the snow has become deep. They travel around the woods from tree to tree and only come down to the ground when there is food to be had. They chase and play with each other like tree monkeys.
January 26: I had an appt. at West Branch hospital that I couldn't cancel, so I took my camera along in hopes that the cedars would still be there- they were. 30+ of them. White-out conditions for the most part with high winds made for pretty miserable photo conditions.. but with my face, camera and lens hammered by blowing snow, I caught an image of a cedar doing something I've never seen before: I watched one lift up it's head and stretch it's neck way up, and thought it may have a berry/fruit caught in it's throat.. then I noticed another one doing the same thing, and then another... It finally dawned on me what was going on. They were catching snowflakes out of the air! I've never seen any bird do this before and I was just beside myself to watch this behavior. I don't think I've ever had this much fun in a blizzard before.
January 30: The deer herd is milling about our clearing for the better part of the day and night now, eating any seed/food in sight. The ground feeding birds are having to compete with them for food (along with the squirrels) and our Northern Cardinals are now coming in to the feeders- something they very rarely do here.
January 31: On a quick run to Rose City this afternoon, we checked the nest area east of town. Just a bit north of the nest site in a tall dead snag behind a residence were 2 very beautiful adult Bald Eagles. They're back.
Additional 2004 Journals: